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Guardiola not falling for De Laurentiis' Napoli script change

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expects a stern test from a full-strength Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday.

NEWS
16 Oct 2017, 19:54 IST
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PepGuardiola - cropped
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola could label Serie A pacesetters Napoli as "a disaster" but the Manchester City manager would be lying about a team he holds in the highest esteem.

Premier League leaders City take on their Italian counterparts in a mouth-watering Champions League Group F meeting at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

Both sides are unbeaten domestically this season, with Napoli's 1-0 win at Roma on Saturday preserving a 100 per cent record, during which time they have plundered 26 goals.

City's 7-2 ransacking of Stoke City at the weekend took them to 29 – the highest amount of goals in the opening eight games for 123 years in the English top flight – but Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has gone against his instincts as a film producer by playing down the blockbuster clash.

The famously outspoken De Laurentiis suggested coach Maurizio Sarri should rest stars such as Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik with an eye on next weekend's top-of-the-table clash with Inter, while he dismissed Guardiola calling Napoli one of the best three footballing sides in Europe as kidology.

"I know, I heard from the president of Napoli in Gazzetta dello Sport that my words are just to distract Napoli but it is just what I believe," a grinning Guardiola told his pre-match news conference in Manchester.

"I believe they are a really good team in all senses, but if the president prefers to hear they are a disaster team I can say that as well."

On whether Napoli would rest players, Guardiola is not holding out much hope.

"Do you believe I believe him [De Laurentiis]? Absolutely not," he said.

"Maybe if he is travelling today with Sarri in the same plane and not on the private jet tomorrow he can ask him.

"I think in the last eight to 10 games they played with the same line-up."

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It is a line-up Guardiola believes can contribute to a footballing feast and he counts himself as an armchair fan of opposite number Sarri.

"They do many, many things and all the things they do they do perfectly," said the former Barcelona boss. "It is not a team that is going to wait. They make high pressing and have the ability to make an amazing build-up in the middle.

"They have three guys who are so dynamic - Insigne, Mertens and [Jose] Callejon. They are good in the small spaces and run in behind perfectly, especially Callejon.

"In the middle they have Hamsik who can also run in behind and the playmaker, Jorginho, is a talent. He reads the situation with and without the ball.

"I am a manager, a professional but a spectator as well. I like to watch football and I like to watch Napoli when I am sitting there in my home.

"I love many, many things about a Sarri team. Tomorrow is a big test. For me it is fascinating to have a challenge. Hopefully the spectators in the Etihad and the people who decide to watch us on TV."

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Guardiola went on to discuss Italian football at length with the travelling media contingent and claimed Sarri is a coach, like the great Arrigo Sacchi and current Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who will leave a lasting impression on one of the game's grandest nations.

"I think Sarri will be important for Italian football and he will leave something to his players, which is an attitude - playing well with the ball and respecting people that come to the stadium to watch you play," Guardiola added.

"I believe in Conte's ideas and Sarri's ideas and I think he will leave his mark."

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