Carlo Ancelotti set Napoli ambitions firmly on winning the Coppa Italia ahead of their Round of 16 match with Sassuolo and warned racism is “a cultural issue reflected in sport.”
It kicks off on Sunday at 19.45 GMT and the winners go on to face Milan or Sampdoria in the quarter-final.
Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens, Simone Verdi and Marek Hamsik are not in the squad to face Sassuolo, but youth team striker Gianluca Gaetano gets his first call-up.
“Allan and David Ospina won’t start tomorrow because they had permission from the club to stay in South America a little longer, so they haven’t trained much,” explained the Coach in his Press conference.
This comes amid growing rumours of Paris Saint-Germain offering up to €80m for the Brazilian midfielder.
“I am not afraid of losing Allan, as the club wants to remain competitive. We are just evaluating the possibility of loaning a player or two out, as Amin Younes and Vlad Chiriches are returning from injury and we don’t want the squad to be too large.
“I don’t foresee any big moves in the January transfer market. Let’s not try to hide the fact Marko Rog is the most likely to be loaned out.”
Napoli crashed out of the Champions League, but Ancelotti hopes to go far in the Coppa Italia, starting with Sassuolo.
“We have a competitive squad and want to be ready on all fronts. I hope the stadium will be full, because a tournament with one-off games means you can go all the way with just a few victories. This is one of the two competitions where we are on the same level as everyone else, whereas in Serie A we’ve got to make up the gap.
“In the Coppa, it’s five games, so 450 minutes of football, that’s hardly an infinite sum. If we do well, we can aspire to lift the trophy. We’re underestimating nothing and we’re concentrated on this competition.”
While the Italian authorities continue to debate over whether play should be halted in the presence of racist chants, Ancelotti reiterated it was an issue that has to be addressed.
“People are acting as if it’s just Napoli’s problem, but it is a problem in Italian football and society at large. A debate has opened up, but there is a protocol to halt play after a warning is read out and that was not respected in the Inter game. We just want the existing rules to be respected.
“We never talked about abandoning the match, but rather a temporary interruption of the game. We hope it’ll never happen again, but if it does, there has to be action.
“Racism in sport is all over the world. We are a bit behind in these situations compared to some other nations, but we mustn’t get discouraged. If there is a problem, we can resolve it with our creativity and above all our desire to fix it. This is a cultural issue, it just gets reflected in sport.”
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini urged Napoli not to mistake mocking rivalry for racism, but Ancelotti wasn’t having it.
“There was nothing fun or jokey about what happened to Kalidou Koulibaly at San Siro.”
Napoli squad for Sassuolo: Meret, Ospina, Karnezis, Mario Rui, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Ghoulam, Luperto, Malcuit, Hysaj, Zielinski, Fabian Ruiz, Rog, Allan, Diawara, Younes, Callejon, Milik, Insigne, Ounas, Gaetano
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