Saturday April 12 2014
Benitez: 'Higuain hasn't performed'

Rafa Benitez assured Napoli have plenty to play for against Lazio, but conceded Gonzalo Higuain “hasn’t performed to his best.”

It kicks off at the San Paolo on Sunday at 14.00 UK time (13.00 GMT), click here for a match preview.

“This game with Lazio is important so that we can guarantee third place,” said the Coach in his Press conference.

“It will also be a special match for the fans. We will give 100 per cent in to win. My side has always done well at the San Paolo and the fans helped us.”

Effectively, Napoli’s only focus now is on the Coppa Italia Final against Fiorentina on May 3.

“If we don’t win the Final, then it can be a problem for the media and the fans. Fiorentina will want to win, just as we do. It is nonetheless a positive season, but we could’ve done better.

“Looking at the statistics, this is almost a record-breaking campaign for this club, despite a change of Coach, players and style of football. We need to become more mature.

“When they talk about me at Napoli, people forget I was at Extremadura and the Real Madrid youth academy. I always worked with the reality that I didn’t have many funds at my disposal. And yet I won! Valencia and Liverpool didn’t have a high revenue when I was there, but we worked on the mentality of the players.

“We need to work harder and make the right choices on the transfer market. I think we are on the right path. During the week I worked on defending and counter-attacks, then asked the lads to be just as motivated as they were against Juventus.

“When we don’t perform the way we should, the mentality of the players has to come out. When the lads come close to something important, they tend to give up. They’ve got to understand that.”

Lazio are still in the running for Europa League qualification and their Coach Edy Reja is popular at the San Paolo, having helped them back from the brink in Serie B.

“Reja is doing a great job,” continued Benitez. “When you change Coach, some things improve. It’ll be a difficult game, as they are highly motivated.”

Gonzalo Higuain has failed to score in his last four games, while Marek Hamsik’s crisis continues too.

“Higuain is training well, but knows he hasn’t performed to his best and that he must do, because he’s an important player for us.

“We have six important games left, including the Coppa Italia Final. Hamsik had done very well in this system at the start of the season, then he came back from injury and isn’t giving what we all expected.”