Pep Guardiola is wary of Manchester City’s Champions League foes Napoli, labelling Maurizio Sarri’s men as one of the best three teams in Europe.
City avoided Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at Thursday’s draw, the big guns who have habitually dogged their group-stage campaigns since ascending to the continent’s top competition in 2011-12 – a season where defeat in Naples preceded round-robin elimination.
Shakhtar Donetsk represented a more favourable pot one opponent but, in a group also containing Eredivisie champions Feyenoord, it was Napoli who grabbed Guardiola’s attention.
“When the third pot team is Napoli – the best team in the pot – it is complicated,” he told a news conference ahead of City’s Premier League trip to Bournemouth on Saturday.
“In the Champions League we can expect pots one and two will be strong but today all the teams are strong.
“We’re going to face the team who played the best football in Italy.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 24, 2017
Guardiola was quick to qualify this observation as a stylistic assessment of Napoli, who were unable to deny Juventus a sixth consecutive Serie A crown last season despite losing only once in the top flight after October.
“I’m not talking about winning. I like to watch the teams who want to play,” he said.
“In Italy, where the culture is defensive in the box, Napoli play 40 metres in front, a bit like Arrigo Sacchi did once [at AC Milan].
“With the ball they are fantastic. For me, they are one of the three best teams right now in Europe [at] playing football.”
City reached the round of 16 last term before bowing out on away goals when a thrilling tie with Monaco ended 6-6.
Guardiola added: “The Champions League is always complicated. Everyone can beat you home and away. Hopefully we can arrive in good shape.”
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