Luciano Spalletti spoke about what his team will need to do away to Atalanta during his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“We’ll need to have the same belief and be as strong as we were at Anfield.
“In order to compete with Atalanta, you don’t just need quality but also physical prowess. They’re a well-put together team led by a veteran with a wealth of experience and expertise in [Gian Piero] Gasperini.”
After a brilliant few months for Napoli, could the World Cup be a danger to the team?
“I honestly don’t see any major obstacles. All the teams will be out of action and will need to find alternative preparation methods. Of course, individual cases will need to be assessed among those competing at the World Cup and those training with their club teams during the break.
“I’m feeling very calm about all that. We have a fit squad of players who know how to manage themselves and show their professional qualities on and off the pitch. Many of our players are effectively their own coaches.”
The clash at Anfield showed the huge respect that Napoli have acquired on the international stage.
“You have to earn respect when you play at this level. Liverpool are a model for modern football and we did well out on the pitch to earn the right level of respect and keep the game going in the right direction, apart from in the last few minutes in which there was a mental drop in focus given that we had achieved our goal.
“What struck me is that despite the incredible achievement of finishing top, I noticed a feeling of disappointment among the players after conceding towards the end. This means they’re sticking to our values and feel they’ve reached a standard of performance level befitting of a top side.”
What type of game are you expecting tomorrow. Could it be another test to show how far Napoli have come?
“A positive result in Bergamo would certainly confirm that we have taken significant steps forward. We’re up against a well-organised side and a club with top-level structures supporting it. I’m calm because I’ve seen how hard the players have worked in training. There’s a real feeling of togetherness and every player here deserves to wear the Napoli jersey.
“We’ll need to get our approach right in every single game as things change. We’ll need to interpret different phases of the match and play our game. Atalanta are ready for a sporting battle. They have height, good engines and quality. We’ll need to be at the right level physically and improve in all areas. Every game is a chance to improve.”
Do you have a preference for the last-16 draw?
“I’m not into preferences. We have to be able to show our quality against every team. We always want to play in top-level fixtures and be strong enough to play at our brilliant best.”
How do you manage the level of excitement and expectations at the club?
“It all manages itself. We need that excitement and the passion from our fans. It’s wonderful to coach Napoli because there’s a positive energy that allows you to go beyond your talent. The passion and affection also hinge on performances and the players know how happy they can make the fans by going above and beyond.”