Carlo Ancelotti warns Napoli that their two meetings with RB Salzburg are “fundamental” for Champions League qualification. “I want to see intensity and courage.”
It kicks off on Wednesday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT) in Austria.
“Salzburg started the season well and although they changed a lot of players, they maintained the same approach to football with intensity and pace,” said Ancelotti in his press conference.
RB Salzburg beat Genk 6-2 in their opening fixture and only narrowly lost 4-3 away to Liverpool, so are genuine contenders for qualification from this group.
“There is a lot at stake in these two games, as Salzburg have shown they are capable of qualifying for the Round of 16, so yes these will be very important matches.
“I want to see a courageous Napoli team that gives its all. This will have a lot of intensity, so we need courage, ideas, the desire to take the game by the scruff of the neck and collective work to overcome a team that has been doing very well this season.
“Salzburg have players with different qualities and characteristics in attack, who combine well. They can do damage both with close passing and on the counter-attack, so they are versatile.
“They did very well against Liverpool, as it’s not easy to score three goals at Anfield, so we must certainly be wary.”
Napoli have not won a Champions League away fixture for three years, while Salzburg are unbeaten at home in Europe since 2016.
“It’s not just my fault, Maurizio Sarri was here too,” smiled Ancelotti. “We have the experience of playing here last season in the Europa League. It’s true we lost 3-1, but after 20 minutes we already had qualification in our pockets with the away goal, so we relaxed a bit too much.
“These are passionate and intimidating atmospheres, but we have to resist that and focus on playing with courage. Napoli can only win if we show our quality. A win away from home would be fundamental in the group, obviously.”
Ancelotti was asked about Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano, who returned from Mexico with an ankle injury and did not feature in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.
“Lozano had a knock on international duty, but he is fine and will certainly give his contribution tomorrow. Arek Milik has always had space when he’s been in good shape. I know if he’ll play from the start, and he could do, but I won’t tell you…
“Dries Mertens is the freshest, as he was rested at the weekend, so the one with the freshest legs has a better possibility of starting. I don’t decide the line-up, it is the work in training that tells me what to do.
“We are all here to do the best of our abilities and I think our best is enough to get three points here. Considering 14 players for this game is important, as I know you are only interested in the starting XI, but those who come off the bench can be decisive.
“You reporters tend to get the XI right, but the important thing is that I get the right XI!”
Will Fernando Llorente be in the starting line-up?
“It depends on what kind of game you expect. If I thought we’d play for 90 minutes in the opposition half, then Llorente would have advantages. I think we need to choose strikers who are… good,” he smiled.
Ancelotti was also asked if he still felt happy in his work, perhaps in light of recent comments from President Aurelio De Laurentiis.
“Football was my passion when I was 10 years old and it is still my passion, even if the environment around it doesn’t always make me happy, but I love watching games, working on the formations and studying teams. That I will always love.”
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