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Napoli's priority is Europe, says Mazzarri

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26 Sep 2011 19:05:38

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri says his side are concentrating on Europe this season after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in its present incarnation.

Napoli finished third in Serie A last season and secured direct qualification for the Champions League group stages.

Having secured an impressive 1-1 draw at Manchester City in their first group game, they take on Spanish side Villarreal at the imposing San Paolo stadium on Tuesday.

Mazzarri had already shown his hand last week by making sweeping changes to the team for the Serie A trip to Chievo, a move that backfired as his side went down 1-0.

But the coach says it was necessary due to the club's priorities.

"For us this year, with the club's agreement, things have changed. Last year against Steaua (Bucharest) in the Europa League we changed things around but now it's the Champions League rather than the league which is the priority," he said.

And he is expecting to find it difficult to break down the Spaniards, who knocked them out of the Europa League 2-1 on aggregate last season.

"Last year against Villarreal they played it tight to then attack us on the counter, that's how it will be tomorrow (Tuesday).

"It's a very dangerous game. We have to avoid being hit on the counter and let's not forget how good they are, they have more experience than us and are higher in the UEFA rankings."

Mazzarri also laughed off suggestions that his team are in crisis following two games without a win or a goal in the league.

"We're in the Champions League for the first time (under its current format) and after two wins in the league (at the beginning of the season) people were talking about us as the team to beat. Is that a crisis?

"People go from one extreme to another and that's wrong. Everything points to the opposite (to a crisis).

"Already this was brought up last season and another Kafkaesque situation is developing."

Mazzarri can also count on one of his key forwards Ezequiel Lavezzi returning to full fitness after an under-par performance in the 0-0 draw with Fiorentina on Saturday.

"I feel better than I did a few days ago. Of course I'm not 100 percent recovered but I can play," he said.

"It's a long time since I've scored at the San Paolo (11 months) but I'm not thinking about that.

"I like playing in this type of game because the motivation takes care of itself.

"The only thing I want is to get to the next round, nothing else counts.

"We're not looking for revenge against Villarreal for having knocked us out of the Europa League last season, all we want are the three points."


AFP

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