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 By Ben Gladwell

Napoli president De Laurentiis wary of 'distracting' Pep Guardiola praise

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has said he is worried his players could be "distracted" by praise from Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola's side host Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday and the City boss praised the football being played by Maurizio Sarri's team, calling them one of the best in Europe.

He said fans should come and watch two similarly attack-minded sides in action, but De Laurentiis told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "They are remarks which worry me.

"I preferred it when [Roma coach Eusebio] Di Francesco said his side would have beaten us because his conviction motivated my players.

"I wouldn't want Guardiola's compliments to distract them. He's a wily old fox and knows very well that he has substantial quality in his squad.

"This could even be an almost impossible game for us to win, but then they've got to come to Naples too."

De Laurentiis indicated that he would gladly trade a win against City for victory against Inter Milan in Serie A next weekend, making it clear that a ninth straight league win is a priority.

Aurelio De Laurentiis is prioritising Serie A.

"In Europe, all we need to be concerned about is getting through to the next phase," he said.

"We don't have to win all of our games. I was particularly worried about the criticism we received after losing [to Shakhtar Donetsk] in Ukraine because it seemed like something tragic had happened, whereas all we did was lose by one goal.

"That 2-1 could be important in terms of goal difference if we finish level on points with another side, in the race for second place.

"All I say is that you need to consider everything and know how to use the right strategy, and I am lucky to have a coach who is a great strategist."

Sarri could rotate his squad against City to ensure that they are fully fit for the weekend.

"I think that you do need to rest some of those players who have played the most minutes in games like these," De Laurentiis said.

"We need to preserve them. We've got the Inter game coming up and that's just as important."

But speaking in his prematch news conference, Guardiola said that he does not expect Napoli to rest players.

He said: "Do I believe him? Absolutely not, but he is travelling this afternoon with Sarri on the same plane or tomorrow on a private jet but he can ask Mr. Sarri if he's going to play. I think in the last eight games I think they play in the same lineup and I can announce you which players will play tomorrow for Napoli against us."

Guardiola also insisted that his comments were genuine and said that he thought Napoli's style would make it an interesting match.

He said: "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.

"Maybe you don't believe me. If I say good things about Napoli it is because I truly believe what I'm saying. I don't need to compliment them. They are a great team. I wouldn't be able to say if they have something more than Man City or not. I think they are very good.

"They are very good when they play with the ball. They can build actions really well, they are able to push forward and do so many things well. I really like Napoli as a team. When I watch another team I try to see what they do well and if they do things well there is always a reason, like the coach or it is a good club.

"There are a number of things that I like my team to do well and tomorrow when we are on the pitch we will both try to attack, both teams will want to keep the ball and score as many as possible. I think when you have two teams that want to play in this way you get a really interesting match."

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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