Maurizio Sarri would’ve rested more Napoli players against Manchester City, but the 2-1 loss shows “we can become competitive in future.”
Jorginho – who has shattered Serie A records for number of passes per game – and Allan were rested in favour of Piotr Zielinski and Amadou Diawara ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Inter.
“If Arkadiusz Milik had been available, he would’ve played tonight rather than Dries Mertens,” confessed the Coach in his Press conference.
“I am not diminishing the Champions League, but I will rest those who need a rest every now and then. If we changed two players and weren’t competitive, that would be a problem. You keep criticising me for playing the same XI and now criticise me for changing too much…
“We played a lot of games with Zielinski and Diawara, plus if I try to defend against Manchester City, I’m going to get crushed. I wanted more quality to make the opposition play in the way they dislike. They are very similar to us, so I wanted greater passing.”
Manchester City went 2-0 up after 13 minutes through Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, while Kalidou Koulibaly made a goal-line clearance and Kevin De Bruyne hit the bar, but Napoli came back.
“The match is to be divided between the first 25 minutes and the rest of it,” continued Sarri. “We struggled because City are an extraordinary team in their quality, changes of pace, tactics and current form. We didn’t help our own situation by not doubling up on the pressing. It allowed them metres to emerge with ease.
“We emerge with great credit from this game, because Manchester City usually devastate their opponents, but we got back and are one of the few sides to have caused them real problems lately. This performance gives us the knowledge we can become competitive in future. I think we’ve passed an exam, if we look at the last six games played.”
Dries Mertens had the chance to get one back before half-time, but saw his spot-kick parried by Ederson.
“It was not to be sniffed at that we got ourselves back on our feet after those 25 minutes and a missed penalty. I saw a step forward here compared to last season, when we took the lead away to Real Madrid and then fell apart. Here we got afloat again after drowning for 25 minutes and that’s a positive.
“We did try to play attacking football, it wasn’t a choice that they forced us back at the start. I saw the statistics and they read five chances for City, four for us. We came here to play.
“Manchester City have impressive capabilities. If they maintain their physical and psychological condition, I think they can go all the way in the Champions League.”
As Shakhtar Donetsk won 2-1 away to Feyenoord this evening, is the home game with Manchester City decisive for Napoli?
“It’s pointless in football trying to predict this sort of thing, otherwise I’d have been an astrologist or a palm reader. The objective is to win the next three games and if we do that, we’ll qualify.”