Napoli’s future in this season’s Champions League hinges on two things. Firstly, they must beat Feyenoord in Rotterdam on the last evening of Group F matches, and secondly, they need Manchester City to beat Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukraine. This combination of results would see them through because of their superior head-to-head record against Shakhtar, who the Italians beat 3-0 on Tuesday night.
And while coach Maurizio Sarri said last night that he will not call his friend Pep Guardiola, Naples-based newspaper Il Mattino has sent out something of a plea in today’s edition.
“The Champions League cannot lose a team this beautiful. Pep, remember Sarri,” pleads one of the writers in a featured article.
Pep Guardiola always plays to win, but to field a full strength side in the Ukraine would seem risky and pointless. City face West Ham a few days before the Shakhtar game and more importantly, the Manchester derby is four days after City’s long distance trip to the east of Europe.
And having secured top spot in Group F last night at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola has a perfect chance to rest many of his big dogs. Should City remain unbeaten heading into that game – fixtures against Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham come before it – then fielding a heavily weakened team would put a win streak going back to April under threat.
Even so, it would seem wise to use this rare opportunity in a fixture pile-up to rest as many players as Guardiola chooses, despite the pleas from Naples. But Guardiola is a football romantic, so who knows?
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