Guardiola denies mind games with Napoli

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Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has denied he is playing mind games with Napoli ahead of Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League game after being accused of being a “wily old fox.”

The Italian club’s controversial owner has dismissed the Manchester City manager’s gushing praise of his team, after Guardiola said they were one of the three best footballing teams in Europe at the moment.

Napoli supremo Aurelio De Laurentiis has crossed swords with the Blues in the past – he had a very public clash with Roberto Mancini the last time they met in the Champions League, in 2011.

Back then, he insinuated that City owner Sheikh Mansour had been involved in shady dealings with Spanish club Villarreal, who City needed to beat Napoli to stand a chance of progressing from their group.

Guardiola said at the weekend that he felt Napoli, who are top of Serie A, are one of the three best in Europe, in terms of teams that play attacking football.

De Laurentiis reacted to that with scepticism, saying: “Guardiola’s praise? It concerned me. I loved it when Di Francesco said Roma would beat us. It fired up my players.

“I wouldn’t like it if Guardiola’s praise resulted in my players losing focus. He’s a wily, old fox and he knows the quality of his squad, which is remarkable.

“For us, it could also be a game that’s almost impossible to win, but we’ll wait for them in Naples…”

Guardiola denied he was attempting any kind of psychological warfare ahead of the game, at the Etihad Stadium.

“Maybe you don’t believe me,” he said. “If I say good things about Napoli it is because I truly believe what I’m saying.

“I don’t need to compliment them. They are a great team.

“I wouldn’t be able to say if they have something more than Man City or not. I think they are very good.”

De Laurentiis had also suggested that Napoli might rest players for the City game, as they have a big game against Inter Milan at the weekend.

Guardiola turned on the scepticism for that one, saying: “I believe it, absolutely not. But he is travelling with Sarri in the same plane or a private jet but he can ask. I can announce to you which players will play.”

De Laurentiis outrageously implied something fishy was going on back in 2011 – before Napoli went to Villarreal and won 2-0.

© Manchester Evening News

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