Walter Mazzarri ‘thought Napoli could win it’ against Real Madrid before capitulating 4-2 and explains what has changed since his last Champions League experience.
The game had started so well at the Bernabeu with Giovanni Simeone opening the scoring, but Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham turned it around.
Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa thought he’d earned a point, but late on Nicolas Paz and Joselu took advantage of some defensive and goalkeeping errors for the final 4-2 result.
“Carlo Ancelotti is a friend, he is very nice, but when I lose a game, my mind is clouded at the final whistle, so I don’t even remember what he said to me,” Mazzarri told Sky Sport Italia.
There are other reasons too, as his heavy scarf was due to flu symptoms and Amazon Prime Video Italia reveal the coach even sustained a small thigh injury after a particularly furious sprint on the touchline.
“I think it was a very good performance and when the result was 2-2, if we had done better with the two or three counter-attacks we had, I thought that we could win it. At that point, we were not running any risks and Real Madrid seemed to be running out of steam.
“Then once we conceded that third goal, we had to pour forward and go for broke, which left the team unbalanced. It doesn’t change much when you lose 3-2 or 4-2. There were some small things I spotted that we’ll discuss, but overall it was a good game.”
Victor Osimhen was only able to come on at half-time, so how long before the Nigeria international is at full fitness?
“He had 20-25 minutes in his legs with Atalanta at the weekend, we could not risk a relapse and so he is being reintroduced gradually.”
Napoli seemed to crumble in the final 15 minutes, as they appeared more than anything else to run out of energy. Could the training of predecessor Garcia and his fitness staff be at fault?
“We were tired, because there are so many games in a season. I don’t want to get into the fitness levels and do not dare judge the work of those who were here before me, so I have to focus only on what happened from the moment I arrived.”
The players all seem to agree that Mazzarri’s arrival has allowed Napoli to rediscover some of the spirit that allowed them to win the Scudetto last season.
“I agree they showed spirit and we managed to keep the team fairly tight, considering the quality of the opposition this evening.”
It was his return to the Champions League after the best part of a decade, just as he came back to Napoli following 10 years away to replace sacked Rudi Garcia.
“When you play at this level, it is always tough. Tactically there have been changes, everyone tends to defend higher, press higher and try to win back the ball as quickly as possible, even the smaller clubs do that.
“However, football remains the same when you are faced with a champion who takes his man on and gets past into open space.”