Napoli in Europe’s top three, warns Guardiola

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony Devlin

Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City to be wary of Napoli in the Champions League group stage, describing them as one of the three best footballing sides in Europe.

Guardiola’s team are optimistic of a good run in this season’s competition after being drawn against Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord in Group F.

The City manager, though, is wary of Napoli, who he considers to be the most stylish team in Italy following their third-place finish in Serie A last season.

“When Napoli come out from the third pot, the best team in the pot, it is complicated,” Guardiola told reporters at City’s training base in Manchester on Friday.

“In the Champions League we can expect pots one and two will be strong, but today all the teams are strong.

“We’re going to face the team who played the best football in Italy. I like to watch the teams who want to play.

“In Italy, where the culture is defensive in the box, they play 40 metres in front, a bit like Arrigo Sacchi did once (with AC Milan). With the ball, they are fantastic.

“For me, they are one of the three best teams right now in Europe playing football. The Champions League is always complicated. Everyone can beat you home and away. Hopefully we can arrive in good shape.”

Guardiola says he is happy with his squad as the transfer deadline approaches and will be satisfied even if City fail to sign Alexis Sanchez.

Guardiola is keen to bring the Chile international to the Etihad Stadium, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is equally determined not to sell him.

City’s manager has repeatedly refused to discuss the prospect of signing either Sanchez, Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe or West Bromwich Albion centre-back Jonny Evans, all of whom are believed to be targets.

But despite City having already spent around £220 million ($282.8 million, 238.5 million euros) on new players, Guardiola said there could be additional arrivals before August 31.

– Mendy fit –
“I’m happy with the squad I have, but we’re going to see,” he said. “We have five or six days left and I think the market is going to move.

“I was happy with the squad last season and I am happy this season. I was happy at (Bayern) Munich, I was happy at Barcelona.

“I have had strong teams at my three clubs and I know how difficult it is, but the clubs have always done as much as possible to make me happy.”

Asked about the possibility of signing Sanchez, Guardiola said: “He’s an Arsenal player, like Mbappe is a Monaco player, like Jonny Evans is a West Bromwich Albion player.

“You have to ask Alexis. He’s a player and the other clubs have to talk about it. Normally I don’t talk about players from other clubs.”

French left-back Benjamin Mendy could play a part at Bournemouth on Saturday after recovering from a thigh injury that has prevented him from making his debut since his move from Monaco.

Mendy is set to be on the bench, with Danilo shifting to right-back in place of the suspended Kyle Walker.

“Mendy is travelling with us,” said Guardiola, whose side drew 1-1 at home to Everton on Monday.

“I don’t know if he will play, but he is travelling with us because Kyle cannot play. I think Danilo is going to play at right-back.”

Ilkay Gundogan is also closing in on a full recovery from the knee injury he suffered last December.

The Germany midfielder featured in City’s recent friendly against Girona in Spain and was set to play for the elite development squad against Leicester City on Friday.

“Gundo is going to play with the second team today to improve his rhythm,” Guardiola said. “He’s much, much better.”

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