Mazzarri fears Chelsea backlash in Europe
NAPLES, Italy - The Associated Press
Napoli will again be relying on its key attacking trio of Ezequiel Lavezzi (pictured), Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik as it faces Chelsea in the Champions League. AP photoNapoli coach Walter Mazzarri is fearful of a Chelsea backlash in the first leg of its Champions League last-16 match tonight.
Chelsea heads into the game in Naples licking its wounds after dropping to fifth in the Premier League and only managing a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup on Saturday against second-tier Birmingham City.
“Chelsea is worse than us at the moment but I don’t trust (form tables),” Mazzarri said. “We’re maybe coming into the game better as a whole, but their team is one of champions, who are all used to the atmosphere of great international events. I’m sure that they will regroup for the occasion.”
In fact, the Italian sees the potential for a Chelsea fightback, starting at the Stadio San Paolo.
“Paradoxically, their difficulties at the moment in English competitions could be an extra obstacle for us. Even when results weren’t happening for us we never stopped playing well, but single episodes made everything go badly.”
Napoli is full of confidence after rising to sixth in the Serie A standings with two successive victories. Edinson Cavani struck twice in an impressive 3-0 win at Fiorentina last week to take his tally for the season to 15 in the league.
Chelsea is still one of the toughest teams in the game, with four semifinals and a losing final in 2008.
Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas is hoping captain John Terry and Ashley Cole are fit after injuries and could recall veterans Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard in a bid to bolster experience and confidence.
“You need an extra mental push,” Villas-Boas said. “Until you get out of the cycle with a win, for sure it perpetuates a little bit.”