Saturday, May 27, 2017

Higuain is an opponent like all others – Sarri not focusing on striker´s return

SoccerNews in Serie A 1 Apr 2017

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Maurizio Sarri will make no special plans for Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain when he returns to Stadio San Paolo for the first time to face Napoli in Serie A on Sunday.

Juventus have an eight-point lead at the top of the table and they are a further two points clear of Napoli, who will host Juventus again in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday.

Higuain can expect to receive a hostile reception from the Napoli fans after he left the club to join Juventus in a £75million deal in July 2016, but Sarri could not hide his admiration for the Argentine, who scored the winner in a 2-1 Juve victory in Turin earlier in the season.

“I love Higuain,” Sarri said. “But tomorrow he will be an opponent so we don’t take care of him.

“I am interested in only Napoli against Juve. I never said that we’d make Higuain have a horrible day at the San Paolo, we just want to make life very difficult for Juventus. 

“Will I hug Higuain again? I don’t think about these things before a game, I am too focused on the match. In the reverse fixture I only noticed he was there when he was a metre away. He knows my opinion of him and I have nothing more to prove. He’s an opponent like all the others, except maybe a bit better.”

Pepe Reina is an injury doubt for Napoli ahead of Sunday’s clash, but Sarri will allow the goalkeeper to decide if he is fit to play.

The 34-year-old has started every league game for Napoli so far this season but was forced to depart from international duty with Spain due to a calf problem and Sarri is hopeful Reina will recover in time to take the gloves for the game against the league leaders.

“The decision is up to him, he’ll realise if he’s fit or not,” Sarri told reporters.

“Test results can well be comforting, but it’s also about how the lad feels. If he is well enough to play, then we’ll evaluate it. As I said, it depends on him. Reina has great experience and intelligence.”

Sarri added: “The most important match is always the next one. Just think about the league match – and then the cup.

“We need application and continuity. Teams like Juventus, they can punish you at the first mistake. Juventus are the strongest Italian team in all respects.

“Tomorrow the mental aspect and motivation will be more important than tactical. The team feels that for the city Napoli against Juve is not a normal game. I hope I will be able to prove it on the field.”

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