Luciano Spalletti has talked up the significance and difficulty of Napoli's encounter with Roma on Sunday, when the Azzurri will look to halt Jose Mourinho's in-form side.

The Giallorossi have won four and drawn one of their five matches in January, keeping four clean sheets in the process, and now find themselves just a point off second place.

"Every match is difficult and this one is even more important because it's a head-to-head clash,” Spalletti began. “It will be enjoyable to watch with the tactics and technique on display and fantastic players on both sides."

What are you expecting from Napoli in the second half of the season?

"We know we have to play lots of great teams so we must keep our heads down and carry on pushing forward.

What's your message to the team now that you have a 12-point lead at the top?

“I say well done to them because we won our last game against Salernitana and it wasn't at all easy. But I also say that we must be very careful and focus on our day-to-day work, keeping our goal in mind but without looking too far ahead of the next hurdle.

“We have a team of smart lads who, thanks to their intelligence, have managed to build up this lead and they know how to deal with every moment of the season. There's no time for resting on our laurels because we'll be up against a top team and a top coach tomorrow. If we want to compete with them, we'll have to be at the top of our own game in every area – mental and technical.”

How do you expect Roma to play?

"They have a squad of great players and a very pragmatic coach who has a knack for getting his players to understand what he wants them to do in the game. They have a lot of pace and athleticism and [Paulo] Dybala, who excels in exploiting pockets of space.

"Roma know how to make the ball do the work for them but they're also good at chasing the ball themselves. They're a well-rounded side who are alert in every moment of the game.

“We must be aggressive while keeping our shape, otherwise it will be very difficult. We must be careful not to get caught out of position when they break and we have to limit our mistakes when building play to an absolute minimum.”

Are you worried about Roma's ability to score from set-pieces?

"I think Roma are very good at making the most of every situation they can find themselves in during a game. That's partly down to Mourinho's pragmatism and experience. He always seeks to turn every little thing to his advantage.”

How many points do you think will be needed to win the Scudetto?

"To be quite honest, I don't know how many points will be needed but making long-term calculations is not part of my modus operandi. Besides, maths is not my forte. I can do simple sums, like if we win the next game we'll have 53 points. That's all that interests me now.”

Before the season began Roma were down as one of the Scudetto favourites and Napoli weren't. What's changed?

“We didn't feel inferior to anyone at the start of the season. We sat down with the club and the players and set ourselves the target of doing better than last season.

“We started the year aware of our ability and excited about representing a great club. Now we're at the halfway point and we're not going to get distracted by the view at the top. If you get distracted, you can trip over. We want to stay upright and carry on running forward.”

Spalletti ended by sending his birthday wishes to Mourinho, who turned 60 a couple of days ago.

"I would have liked to be invited to his party. I would have turned up with a nice present for him. But I can wish him happy birthday today. Mourinho is a coach who improves the game of football. Happy birthday, Mou!”

Share the article with your friends and support the team

Share the article with your friends and support the team

URL Copied to clipboard!