Benitez warns of Bilbao threat

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

Last Updated: 18/08/14 at 11:37 Post Comment

Rafael Benitez: Prepares for Athletic Bilbao test

Rafael Benitez: Prepares 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 to 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 £29 million 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."

More of the games that matter

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

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

think Finnegans Wake would have been a better reference point than Ulysses. Far more rambling and incomprehensible.

debra2927
Football People On TV: Garth Crooks

I

f I recall correctly, Degsy predicted a 100/1 shot correctly the week after his 150/1 Blackpool 4 - 3 Bolton call. I stuck a fiver on it as an idle bet. Paid for a stag do in Munich. Heady days...

baldini
Backing Hull To Beat United 2-1...

R

odgers prefers Joe Allen to Lucas? If this is true then I'm setting aside a fortnight to finally learn the rules of American Football and I'll give up on real football.

godzilla
The Jammy Gossip

Footer 365

QPR's Rio Ferdinand is astounded by reaction to his wife's death

QPR defender Rio Ferdinand has been astounded by the levels of support he received following the death of his wife.

Raheem Sterling would interest Manchester City – Sky sources

Manchester City would be interested in signing Raheem Sterling if he were to become available, according to Sky sources.

Alan Pardew not sure Crystal Palace can match fine season in 2015-16

Alan Pardew says it is going to be difficult to repeat Crystal Palace's sensational second half of the season when the 2015-16 campaign starts.

Mail Box

Only One Real Manager Of The Year

Winning the Premier League with the best squad in the Premier League is only par; Ronald Koeman did a whole lot better. Plus, the last word on Raheem and...

Don't Slate Sterling For Ambition...

Raheem Sterling deserves credit for his desire to quit Liverpool, according to one mailboxer. Also: why football should not be compared to business and Degsy's latest spot of bother...

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