Luciano Spalletti wants his Napoli side to “become folklore” by reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Following a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg in Germany, the runaway Serie A leaders are on the verge of a place in the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition.
Sitting a huge 18 points clear at the Serie A summit and unbeaten in their last 11 home Champions League matches, the Partenopei will certainly fancy their chances of finishing the job at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Although, they ended up being eliminated on the only previous occasion they won a knockout match in the competition, surrendering a 3-1 lead before eventually going down 5-4 on aggregate at this stage against Chelsea in the 2011-12 season.
Nevertheless, Spalletti knows what is at stake for the club, and issued a rallying cry to his players in his pre-match press conference.
“Great teams are made up of great players,” he said. “There’s history to be written in tomorrow’s game. Our city is replete with big stories and big personalities. We’re keen to become part of Naples’ history and become folklore in this city.
“You can compare it to the first final of the season. I don’t think that can put pressure on the side, because I’ve seen them deal with many positive and negative situations already this term.
“Seeing as it is practically a final, I want to see the attitude of a team that is starved and wants a result. I’ve seen them in training all term, and they never let their heads drop.
“Now, the test is to forget what has happened in the past and focus on getting the job done now.”
— Official SSC Napoli (@sscnapoli) March 14, 2023
Despite their favourable position, Spalletti insists his side must not take anything for granted against last season’s Europa League champions.
“It would be terribly presumptuous for us to assume we’re already in the next round, that is not the way we do things,” he added. “Tomorrow, we need the head, the heart, and a bit of luck.
“Don’t forget Eintracht got through a group that had Tottenham, Marseille and Sporting CP. Last year, they won away to a Barcelona side that eliminated us, so we have total respect for the work Oliver Glasner is doing, we know it will be tough.
“We will not underestimate Eintracht, qualification is still only 50-50, and we must repeat the magical performance of the first leg. That was extraordinary, and it is no mean feat to replicate it.
“Eintracht will try something different because they have to, so we need to be humble and ready for anything.”