Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri wants to play Manchester United in the Champions League

by Leo Nieboer

Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri has pin-pointed Manchester United as the side he most wants to face in the Champions League group stages ahead of Thursday’s draw in Monaco.

Jose Mourinho’s men, following their Europa League success, are in pot 2 and Napoli are in pot 3 – alongside Basel, Olympiakos, Anderlecht, Roma, Besiktas – after beating Nice 4-0 in the playoffs.

The draw officially begins at 16:30 GMT, which means the actual draw will probably happen at around midnight (not really). Man United’s last group – which they failed to get out of – consisted of Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow.

And Sarri, when asked about his preferred opponent, noted he wanted to play United at Old Trafford above anything.

“I’d love to play against Manchester United at Old Trafford,” he said. 

“I hope to do well both in Europe and in Italy. I complimented my players and then 30 seconds later told them they had to face Atalanta this weekend, who we dropped a lot of points against last season.

“It would’ve been really negative if we had missed out on the Champions League. Now we’ve got to keep the euphoria in check, because that can lead us down the wrong path. These lads deserved the Champions League, though.

“The draw for this preliminary round was not easy and I want to thank the players for showing how much they care about Napoli. Some could’ve been on vacation at the start of July, but they opted out of extra time off to train with the team.”

A nightmare group for United, put simply, would include Real Madrid and Napoli. There couldn’t be anything worse than that.

Sarri has turned Napoli into a fierce, efficient attacking unit. They move the ball around with precision and eloquence in equal measure, always playing out from the back and through midfield. Every player is ambidextrous, comfortable on the ball and hardwired to create effective triangles – especially on the left side with Marek Hamsik, Faouzi Ghoulam and Lorenzo Insigne – through which to open up gaps further up the pitch.

Mark my words, Napoli could very well be this season’s AS Monaco. An ideal group? Spartak Moscow, Anderlecht and Leipzig.

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