MANCHESTER CITY midfielder Nigel de Jong has warned his team-mates to be prepared for an onslaught tonight from a Napoli side fighting to extend their own Champions League debut.
City, making their first appearance in Europe’s top club competition, have recovered from a jittery start to their Group A campaign and will clinch a place in the knockout stage if they win tonight.
But De Jong expects the Italians, and a vociferous crowd tipped to set a new club record at the Stadio San Paolo, to bombard the runaway Premier League leaders as they strive to avoid elimination.
“There is going to be an intensity because they are fighting for the last chance,” said the Holland international. “Everybody knows the stories about Napoli and their fans. It is going to be an exciting game. We have to be focused on that. As long as the challenge is on the pitch I will be up for the task.
“It was always going to be a hard game, especially away and that atmosphere. We have to be focused and not concede. As soon as you concede it will be hard to score, but we are confident.”
City have found goals anything but hard to come by this season, racking up a remarkable 55 in 18 games, while Napoli have struggled to reproduce their fluency of last term.
The floodgates have really opened since the landmark 6-1 win over bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, with City hitting the net 23 times in their last six fixtures, that clash included.
“We already had the belief before the 6-1 but after that game, the confidence did get higher,” De Jong said.
“Away games are always more difficult, especially there. But this is not going to be an easy task with their fans. We just have to be confident.”
KNOW YOUR ENEMY | NAPOLI
Three points would send Man City through and eliminate Napoli, but anything else will mean it goes down to the last round. The Italians will be desperate for a win that would lift them ahead of City, who host Bayern in a daunting final group fixture.
Napoli have won just once in their last seven games – 2-0 at home to high-flying Udinese late last month – and have slipped to seventh in Serie A. In Europe, their impressive draw at the Etihad Stadium was followed by victory over Villarreal, but they have drawn and lost to Bayern since.
City have been linked with all three of Napoli’s attacking trio – bullish striker Edinson Cavani, Carlos Tevez Lite Ezequiel Lavezzi and playmaker Marek Hamsik – although none have yet recaptured their form of last season, which fired Napoli’s unlikely title challenge.