Atletico Madrid
Leg 1
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FC Salzburg
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St. Kitts and Nevis
12:00 AM UTC Apr 27, 2018
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 By Ben Gladwell

Benitez plays down Napoli UCL fears

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez says it would not be a tragedy if his side were to fail to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, but he is counting on the fans to help them get there.

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The Partenopei host Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday night in a tie which could go a long way towards defining the Serie A club's season. Not only would a berth in the group stage be important for prestige, it would also guarantee them more funds to spend in the transfer market before it closes at the end of the month.

Losing to the Liga club and playing instead in the Europa League would lead to a reassessment, but Benitez says things could be worse.

"I've seen people talking about tragedies but it's not a tragedy if we don't go through," he said at a news conference in Castelvolturno, near Naples. 

"Just look at Manchester United -- they are not in Europe at all this year and they are one of the clubs who are always involved; Napoli do not have that same tradition.

"Of course it's important. It's important for the image, the finances and the satisfaction of the people, but if we allow ourselves to get anxious about it, then we end up making even more errors.

"We've got to have faith. We've got maximum respect for a strong team, but I'm convinced that we are equally strong."

Benitez says errors will inevitably be made by his team, but the way in which the fans respond will be vital.

"We've seen it already in many big games -- our fans get behind us and they need to be the 12th man," continued the Spaniard. "I'm sure we'll see this tomorrow too. I think they have to understand if a player makes a mistake, they need to help him. 

"These fans are attached to these colours and we all need to work together. Like against Arsenal and Dortmund, the fans have to be up for this one too."

Marek Hamsik says the players are fully prepared for their biggest appointment of the season so far. "We're ready and motivated," the Slovakia international said. "We've done well in Europe recently and we want to carry on that way.

"We're competitive and can play anybody. The [Stadio] San Paolo has always been our 12th man and always given us a hand, and it will do again tomorrow."


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