‘Wily old fox’ Pep does not believe Napoli nonsense

Date published: Monday 16th October 2017 1:54

Pep Guardiola has dismissed suggestions from Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis that the Serie A leaders should rest players against Manchester City.

The Premier League table-toppers host the in-form Italian side in the Champions League on Tuesday.

De Laurentiis feels his side’s clash with second-placed Inter Milan on Saturday is of equal importance and should influence coach Maurizio Sarri’s selection at the Etihad Stadium.

“I think that some of our players should sit out this game, with Inter only around the corner,” he told Gazetta dello Sport.

City boss Guardiola, who has spoken highly of Napoli ever since the sides were drawn together in Group F, is not taking those remarks seriously.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: “Do I believe him? Absolutely not.

“But he is travelling with Sarri in the same plane, or in a private jet. He can ask him, Mr Sarri, if he is going to play (like this), but I think in the last eight games they played in the same line-up.

“I can announce which players are going to play, Napoli, against us.”

Guardiola said in August that he regarded Napoli as “one of the three best teams right now in Europe playing football”.

These are words he stands by even though De Laurentiis has queried whether there are any mind games going on.

He referred to Guardiola as a “wily old fox” and added he “wouldn’t like it if Guardiola’s praise resulted in my players losing focus”.

Guardiola said of Napoli: “They do many many things and all the things they do they do perfectly.

“In Italy they have won eight games in a row, and won in Rome against Lazio and Roma.

“I heard the president of Napoli in Gazzetta dello Sport said my words were just to distract them, but it is what I believe.

“I believe they are a really, really good team in all senses but if the president prefers me to say they are a disaster team, and a no good team, I can say that as well.”

De Laurentiis does have some history with City. Last time they were in the same group in 2011 he suggested City’s owners could try to influence the outcome of a game between Villarreal and Napoli to allow the English club to progress.

“I can feel strange things going on surrounding the Villarreal game – princes and sheikhs are getting agitated,” De Laurentiis said.

It provoked an angry response from then City manager, Roberto Mancini, who said: “Sheikh Mansour is a very good man and I can’t think about this stupid situation.”

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