Rafa warns of Bilbao threat

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has warned his side not to underestimate Athletic Bilbao when the two teams meet in Tuesday's Champions League play-off in Naples.

Last Updated: 19/08/14 at 14:19 Post Comment

Rafael Benitez: Ready for Athletic Bilbao test

Rafael Benitez: Ready for Athletic Bilbao test

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

The Italians host the Basque outfit at the San Paolo stadium hoping to take an advantage heading into the return leg in Spain on August 27.

Napoli, who finished third in Serie A last season and lifted the Coppa Italia, are considered favourites to reach the group stages for the third time but Benitez has warned his players to expect a difficult tie against Los Leones.

"We will face a great team and the second leg will be in an incredible (San Mames) stadium," Benitez said to Spanish newspaper Marca. "The (San Mames) crowd is like their 12th man.

"Athletic's strongest weapon is the group, with players who have been together for many years and have the support of a city that never loses its passion.

"I respect Athletic Bilbao a great deal, but I trust my Napoli.

"We have players who came in late from World Cup duty, like (Argentinian striker) Gonzalo Higuain, and new players that have yet to adapt to the team but I've seen positive signs."

Benitez is confident his side can join Italian giants Juventus and Roma in the group stages of the Champions League.

"My team arrives ready for this tie," the Spaniard said. "We have the right mentality and we too can count on great passion."

Last season, Napoli became the first team since 1997 to be eliminated from Europe's elite club competition in the group stages with 12 points in Benitez's first year in charge.

Athletic, who finished fourth in La Liga in the 2013-14 campaign, must adapt following the departure of star midfielder Ander Herrera this summer.

Herrera joined Manchester United last month in a £29million transfer deal.

"Herrera is a great player and his absence will surely be felt," Benitez said. "However, Athletic's strength remains the group and not individual talent."

Watch the Champions League play-off round tie between Napoli and Athletic Bilbao on Sky Sports 5 HD on Tuesday night, with coverage underway from 7.30pm.

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

G

ood lord that's got me unnecessarily excited. Damn you Storey. Cut to Liverpool being crushed under the wheels of Sparky's Stoke Machine and Firmino brought off the bench to no effect. It's the hope that kills you.

suarez_blind
Roberto Firmino: Steel To Complement The Silk

N

o Schweini? Have to admit that I did a little sex wee when we signed him and I can't wait to see him in action!!!

spence
F365's Top Ten Players We Can't Wait To Watch

I

think he'll do quite well. My only reservation would be Kagawa, who had similar stats to Firmino in the bundesliga before he came, but time will tell.

GVMUFC
Roberto Firmino: Steel To Complement The Silk

Footer 365

Liverpool's Jordon Ibe says he needs more end product

Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe says he must be looking contribute a goal or assist in every game he plays.

Barcelona want Pedro to stay

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has said he wants Pedro to stay in Catalonia and revealed the player has not expressed his desire to leave.

Ibrahimovic to make future decision

Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has admitted he may well have played his last game for Paris Saint-Germain and will make a decision on his future next week.

Mail Box

Is Jack Wilshere The New Diaby?

This was supposed to be his season but he is already injured. We have mails on Chelsea, TV football, why Raheem Sterling is worth more than ADM and more...

There's A Lot Of Anger About TV...

...and how much you have to pay - largely for games you don't actually want to watch. Many of you are forced to go illegal. We also have mails on Chelsea, Angel di Maria and...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company