UEFA Europa League


"It's a decisive match. If we don't win tomorrow we’ll have a tough job qualifying." Luciano Spalletti wasn’t for mincing his words in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Legia Warsaw clash.

The coach was positive when speaking about his side’s chances, while acknowledging the threat of the Polish opponents. “We’re confident because we’ve got strength in depth which means we can go the distance in the Europa League. We want to win this match and we’ve got players capable of making that happen. I’ve got a squad that can battle on all fronts.

“Legia are great at nullifying the opponent then hitting them on the break. This is the reason why they’re group leaders. We’ll need to be good at reading which way the wind blows in the game.”

As for who would end up starting the game, Spalletti commented that “I don't think it's right to talk about rotation because we’ve got a group of players who are all capable of slotting in. There’s no such thing as a first or second choice 11, whoever starts tomorrow has no bearing on that. I’ll pick the players I see fit for the game."

When asked if the current Napoli squad is the best he’s had at his disposal in his coaching career, Spalletti was cagey: “I can’t answer that, but the players here certainly have all it takes to be a top Napoli side. I’ve seen plenty in my coaching career and I’d say that this current team is really good. Yet football isn’t played on paper, you need to show this on the pitch. I’m confident though, from what I see both in training and in matches it makes me very happy indeed."

Spalletti pointed out that while Dries Mertens’ return “is very important because we need leaders and great players, getting Diego Demme and Stanislav Lobotka back involved is also a big deal. Having strength in depth will be a vital factor this season.”

Concerning Victor Osimhen’s potential involvement after featuring in so many matches recently, the coach revealed that “he won’t start tomorrow, but the boy is blessed with a physique which allows him to recover quickly.”

He stressed that "whoever I pick will be ready to put in a good performance. We’d like to give a good account of ourselves for our fans. We wanted to do so against Spartak, so we’ll give our all to make up for that in Thursday’s game.

Spalletti brushed off the incident involving Hirving Lozano when he was substituted against Torino. “There was a minute left and I needed to shore up the defence to deal with their long balls. Lozano reacted well, he was sorry and I get his reaction, but the next day he came into training with a smile on his face. He’s a vital player to us.”

(Photo LaPresse)