"I have played a lot of UEFA matches and every one is a magical night," said SSC Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina, with his side hoping to end Swansea City AFC's UEFA Europa League ambitions.
A 0-0 first-leg draw in south Wales last week leaves the tie finely poised for Thursday's return match at the Stadio San Paolo, and the 31-year-old is eager to forge a passage to the last 16. "The UEFA Europa League is a very important competition and we absolutely want to make it through," he said. "There are good teams involved, like Juventus, and the further you go the more you want to win the competition."
Reina's coach at Napoli – and also during his time at Liverpool FC – Rafael Benítez warns that Swansea will be no pushover, especially after watching their 4-3 Premier League loss to the Reds on Sunday. "Our target is to score one more than them," the 53-year-old said. "Swansea play good, intense football. Against Liverpool they scored three but conceded four: that means we cannot afford mistakes in defence but we can score goals.
"We have to work together, like in every match," added Benítez, who won last season's UEFA Europa League during his short spell as Chelsea FC manager, to add to personal achievements that include lifting the 2002/03 UEFA Cup with Valencia CF and the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League with Liverpool. "But we have to be aware of Swansea's intensity and speed. The Premier League and Serie A are different. It's physical football versus tactical football."
Reina is also urging fans not to expect a gulf in quality between the team lying third in Serie A and Swansea, 12th in the Premier League. "In England, football is at a different level," Reina explained. "The top three or four teams are very similar to Serie A, but the rest of the contenders are much better – a team lower in the Premier League can always play very well against you, as we will see. We were lucky in Wales because they could have won."
Garry Monk, Swansea's 34-year-old interim player-manager, echoed that assessment, rueing their failure to score the goal he feels they merited in the round of 32 opener. "We have to look ahead, though," he said. "Away goals are very important in Europe so we need to go after that. Napoli have a very good squad and they were unlucky in the Champions League – they deserved much more. It will be a difficult match for us and we have to do ourselves proud.
"Swansea have done amazing things in recent years, but we want to go on growing and this is what we are doing. Matches like this can help us to grow."
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