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Tuesday October 17 2017
Young master vs old student

Napoli-Manchester City sees Maurizio Sarri and Pep Guardiola put their philosophies on the table. Livio Caferoglu analyses the two tactical artisans.

Napoli and Manchester City have a lot in common. They both lead their respective Leagues, are the top scorers in each and wear sky-blue jerseys. What unites them even more, however, is their Coaches, with Maurizio Sarri’s idea of ‘Sarrismo’ having its roots in the ‘tiki-taka’ style implemented by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. If there was a match for purists, this would be it.

The mere notion that these two Coaches will face each other in the Champions League on Tuesday is made all the more remarkable when you compare the backstories of each. Guardiola had just won the Treble with Barca in 2009 when Sarri was still coaching Perugia in Lega Pro, before being sacked after a defeat to Gallipoli – now plying their trade in Serie D.

Eight years on, and Napoli and City’s deadly concoction of aesthetics and functionality make them arguably Europe’s two best teams on current form. Sarri’s Partenopei play a quick possession game, with plenty of geometry and expression, just like Guardiola’s Barca. City, on the other hand, are a little more versatile and not quite as swashbuckling, but no less effective.

“[Napoli] do many, many things and all the things they do, they do perfectly,” Guardiola said at a Press conference. “They are not a team that is going to wait. There is going to be high pressing and they have the ability to make amazing build-ups, especially in the middle. They have three guys that are so dynamic, [Lorenzo] Insigne, [Dries] Mertens and [Jose] Callejon.”

Sarri quickly returned the favour, adding: “They win all their games with at least five goals. The last time they didn’t score a goal was August, and they’re also strong in the defensive phase. It will be very hard… They always press the ball with a lot of men. I’ve seen important things from City... They’re clearly the best team in Europe… The feeling of strength I get from City I didn’t even get from Real Madrid last year.”

High praise indeed, but given the magnitude of the encounter and the unbeaten starts the two sides have made, it could’ve all been just mind games for the cameras. Furthermore, Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis suggested Serie A was more important to his club than the Champions League and also advised Sarri to rest several players for the trip to Manchester.

“I think that some of our players should sit out this game, with Inter only around the corner and being just as important,” noted the patron. “Guardiola’s praise? It concerned me… I wouldn’t like it if his praise resulted in my players losing focus. He’s a wily old fox and he knows the quality of his squad, which is remarkable.”

Guardiola may have been the innovator of the high-pressing, short-passing style that has become the blueprint for so many teams and Coaches of today, but Sarri’s influence in turning Napoli from a pragmatic, shape-based outfit into an idealistic, free-flowing one and establishing them as Scudetto contenders has gone some way towards closing the 12-year age gap between the pair.

The romance will quickly be replaced by the sizzling cauldron of a Champions League night, with the southerners needing a victory to have any hopes of winning Group F, but it promises to be one of the most absorbing and satisfying match-ups of the season. It’s Napoli versus City, ‘Sarrismo’ versus ‘Guardiolismo’ and the young master versus his old student.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
seems very obvious napoli have put ALL their eggs in the scudetto basket. The problem with that is 1. if you don't get the scudetto you would have failed massively this year by not winning anything and not even making it out of the group stages and 2.even if you do somehow win the scudetto most foreign players don't give all that much of a crap about the scudetto they want UCL wins.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 7:55am
With man city man utd and chelsea financial backing it has only been their own incompetence in buying players which denies them real progression in the cl. Honestly city have players they paid 50 million pounds for sitting on the bench on monster wages. Napoli need a proper game plan to overcome this club with more money than common sense
on the 18th October, 2017 at 7:27am
@MaradonaMac Yes the majority of the players bottled it, Jorginho & Allan should have started, but there are positives for the return leg.
The match at SP will be different.
Ounas really impressed me + Diawara played very well. (though Jorginho is first choice)
Maggio is way past it, absolute suicide in the UCL.
Beginning to get worried about Hamsik, never seem him so low.
If Insigne is unfit maybe Inter steal pt(s) off Napoli. Sari needs quality depth options to compete on 3 fronts.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 1:22am
This Napoli I barely recognized. Surely they've been on the scene long enough by now not to get stage fright? Very disappointing, and even though they improved the game was out of reach after 13 mins.

They'll need to beat City and SD in Naples to stand a chance now. Still, this is no time to rip it up and start again. A strong performance this weekend is what's now needed.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 12:18am
De Bruyne is worth more than Napoli's Starting Xl...**

If Sarri can pull this off against Guardiola it will be one of the greatest feats of his career. A Neapolitan banker is poised to etch his name into the history of footballing tactics. If Napoli wins the Scudetto there will be statues of this man.
on the 17th October, 2017 at 5:55pm
City have been given far too many plaudits of late. "Best in Europe"? Based on what? Whipping average EPL teams who have no idea what it is to defend. I'm not saying Napoli are great at the back, but City will have to actually work for their goals this evening, and also in the fight for possession. Once Napoli have the ball, they like to keep it and make things happen.

Sarri is a great trainer! No money to throw around, but the result of his work is a thing of beauty. ]

2-1 Napoli.
on the 17th October, 2017 at 4:50pm
Could not be more excited for this match.
City at home will be difficult. Being a PL side, they have tremendous breaking power to go along with their tiki taka and with their superior squad depth this could be dangerous for a non-rotated Napoli Xl.
Napoli may approach this game slightly different, defending when they need to and taking control of the game when the time is right.
Should Napoli hit full flow in Manchester, City's defense will crack.
Can't wait! Make Serie A proud Napoli!
on the 17th October, 2017 at 2:58pm
City's defence won't be able to cope with Napoli's attack.
on the 17th October, 2017 at 1:24pm

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