Valverde refusing to underestimate Napoli


Ernesto Valverde insists Barcelona will not be underestimating Napoli with the two sides set to meet in the last 16 of the Champions League early next year.

Barcelona were pitted against their Italian opponents during Monday’s draw in what will be the first-ever competitive meeting between the two sides.

The Blaugrana will be considered the favourites to win the tie given they topped a tough-looking group that contained the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, while they are also leading the way in La Liga.

Napoli, by contrast, are struggling for form of late, as they have only won one of their last 11 matches across all competitions, a run that contributed to Carlo Ancelotti losing his job last week.

There also appears to be unrest between Napoli’s players and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis, with Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Parma leaving them languishing in eighth place in the Serie A standings.

The Partenopei did take four points off reigning European champions Liverpool during the group stage and Valverde won’t be underestimating the Italian side when they go head to head for a place in the quarter-finals.

“Napoli are a dangerous team. Maybe they’re not in their best form but it is a tough draw. There will be a great atmosphere at their stadium for the first leg,” Valverde told Barca TV.

The first leg of the tie will not be played until February 25 and, with the reverse match coming the following month, Valverde knows the fortunes of both sides could have changed a lot by the time they meet.

“You never know how the two teams will be when the games come around. They have good players in attack, like Mertens and Insigne,” Valverde added.

“There will be a fierce atmosphere at a stadium where the fans are right on top of you. We’re used to playing in these atmospheres and it will be nice to experience everything that’s generated around this game in Naples.”