Spanish task primary focus for Napoli before Champions League ties

Napoli have tough Champions League fixture against Arsenal ahead but the goalkeeper is focused on league first.

Pepe Reina warms up during a training session as Napoli gear up for Udinese with an eye on joint-second place in the league. Ina Fassbender / Reuters
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Napoli have tough Champions League fixture against Arsenal ahead but the goalkeeper is focused on league first

Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina is expecting a tough task against Udinese today, which could set them up in winning fashion for a week that might define the success of their season.

Naples head into the encounter at the San Paolo stadium on the back of Monday’s 4-2 triumph at Lazio. The outcome allowed Napoli to bounce back from domestic defeats to Juventus and Parma, as well as a loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Uefa Champions League.

Napoli are third in the Serie A table going into today’s game and second in Group F of the Champions League, where they face Arsenal on Tuesday.

“The game against Udinese is a very important game,” Reina said. “We want to remain in the top positions of the standings and Saturday’s game is a big test.

“We have three games at home, but we are well aware that the most important one is the first one.”

Napoli have to beat Arsenal by a 3-0 margin in their last Group F game to guarantee their spot in the knockout stages of the competition, though a victory, or even a draw, may be enough if Dortmund lose their final game with Marseille. Reina insists the team will not be distracted by their midweek encounter when they take on Udinese.

“We are focused solely on Saturday’s game,” he said. “We have already seen the strength of Udinese, that almost surprised Juventus last weekend.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game and we must be ready.”

Napoli coach Rafa Benitez will be without the services of defender Miguel Angel Britos, who will serve a one-match ban.

Udinese are eager to bounce back from their 1-0 loss to Juventus.

The Friuli outfit looked to be heading for a deserved point, only to be denied by a Fernando Llorente goal in the final minutes.

“We played a very good game at Juventus and we are disappointed not to have taken anything from it,” Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin said. “But we have to continue on this path.

“The team is playing well and there is no reason why we cannot do well at Napoli.”

Udinese, who are 13th in the standings, will have to show a vast improvement if they are to record Napoli’s second Serie A loss at home this season.

Udinese have won just once and lost six of their seven games on the road this season. Juventus, the league leaders, were in action last night at Bologna, while second-place Roma, who are three points ahead of Napoli, are in action tomorrow against Fiorentina.

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