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Oct 21, 2013

Benitez: Marseille ties crucial for Napoli

Napoli coach Rafa Benitez is demanding six points from his side’s double-header against Marseille as they look to escape their ‘group of death’.

Benitez does not want to face a situation in which his side must beat both Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in their final two group games, and he therefore feels it is essential that they defeat Marseille home and away to give themselves hope of reaching the knockout stage.

“Everybody said it was a group of death and, well, it is very difficult,” Benitez told the prematch news conference. “Arsenal and Borussia are really strong and these two games are going to be decisive. If we don’t win them, then we’re going to have to win two other very difficult games so this is a crucial test for us.”

Marseille have started out with back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Dortmund, but Benitez does not feel that means victory will be easy, particularly in Tuesday’s game at the Stade Velodrome.

“They’ve lost three in a row and that only makes things even more complicated for us,” he said. “I’ve been here twice and the atmosphere and the passion of the fans left its mark on me. They are a strong side and very dangerous.”

Napoli midfielder Gokhan Inler believes the spectators could play an important role in the two encounters.

“Marseille is very similar to Naples,” the Swiss said. “I’ve got friends who played here and they’ve told me it’s a hot atmosphere, but I like stadiums like this and it’ll be a great game tomorrow.

“This game’s fundamental, but it’s not decisive. Each game is important and we’ve come here to show our value.”

Gonzalo Higuain remains a doubt for Napoli, with Benitez unable to say whether he will be able to play or not.

“He could be fit today, he could be fit tomorrow, or it could take three more days,” he said. “I can guarantee that he will be fit eventually, but it’s just a matter of time.”

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