Napoli coach Rafael Benitez is not reading much into his side’s 2-1 win over Marseille in France a fortnight ago as his side prepare to meet the French opponents again on Wednesday night.
That victory lifted the Azzurri into three-team share of the lead in Champions League Group F along with Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund on six points, but Benitez knows that Marseille will be playing for their lives at the Stadio San Paolo.
Defeat for them, combined with a draw in the group’s other fixture, would eliminate them from the competition.
“Everybody thinks we’ve already won, but that’s wrong,” Benitez said. “Let’s just try to do our bit and then we’ll see how the Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal game goes. Of course I would have preferred an easier group, but getting through this one would be all the more satisfying.”
Victory would guarantee Napoli at least third place in the group and keep them in one European competition going into 2014, but they want more than just a Europa League berth.
To increase their chances of finishing inside the top two, Benitez is counting on the support of 50,000 fans in Naples to lift them, and above all to behave well so that they can provide their backing again against Arsenal in December.
“We need to play the final group game at home in front of our fans,” he said. “I’d therefore like to appeal to them to behave because they can give us a big hand against the English club. We’re the home team and that could be an extra weapon for us. I think our hopes will be decided in that game against Arsenal.”
The most difficult decision Benitez has to make is whether Gonzalo Higuain will start on Wednesday. He may well be rested for the key Serie A clash with Juventus this Sunday.
“We need to rotate our players from game to game,” Benitez said. “First we think about Marseille and our road to the knockout stage. Higuain is improving by the game, but he is still lacking something to be 100 percent.”