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Napoli v Athletic background

A Spanish coach and a number of experienced Liga players will help SSC Napoli as they look to make it past Athletic Club to the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Napoli's Spanish coach Rafael Benítez
Napoli's Spanish coach Rafael Benítez ©Getty Images

Boasting a Spanish coach and plenty of Liga-hardened players, SSC Napoli will fancy their chances of making it past Athletic Club to the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Previous meetings
• none

Form guide
Athletic's only previous UEFA Champions League group stage campaign was in 1998/99; Napoli have made it to the group stage twice: in 2011/12 and again last season.

• Of the last 14 meetings between Italian and Spanish sides in UEFA club competition, only one has been won by a Serie A club – AC Milan's 2-0 home win against FC Barcelona in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League round of 16.

Napoli's record in eight European games against Spanish sides is W4 D2 L2 (W2 D2 L0 at home, W2 D0 L2 in Spain). In their only meetings with Liga sides in this competition, they beat Villarreal CF 2-0 home and away in their 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group.

Athletic's 13 games against Italian sides have ended W7 D2 L4 (W6 D1 L0 in Bilbao – W1 D1 L4 in Italy). They are unbeaten in five games against Italian sides (W3 D2).

Napoli are unbeaten in five European home games (W4 D1) since a 3-0 loss to FC Viktoria Plzeň in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League round of 32.

Links and trivia
Athletic defender Carlos Gurpegui turns 34 on the day of the first leg.

• This will be Napoli coach Rafael Benítez's 150th UEFA match. The Spaniard is familiar with the Basque Country from his time as coach of CA Osasuna in neighbouring Navarre in 1996/97; Benítez's record in 11 games against Athletic as a coach is W4 D3 L4. He has yet to win an away game in Bilbao.

• Benítez signed Mikel San José from Athletic in 2007, during his time as Liverpool FC coach. However, the defender returned to Bilbao – initially on loan – in 2009 without making a single first-team appearance for the Reds.

Napoli boast Spanish talent in the form of defender Raúl Albiol, forward José María Callejón and new striker Michu, who made his Liga debut – for Rayo Vallecano de Madrid – in a 1-1 draw at Athletic on 28 August 2011. Meanwhile, Federico Fernández (Getafe CF), Henrique (FC Barcelona and Real Racing Club), Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid CF) and Eduardo Vargas (Valencia CF) all have Liga experience.

• Higuaín enjoyed his games against Athletic with Madrid, scoring eight goals in ten fixtures – all of them wins.

Athletic's Iker Muniain came on as a substitute in the final of the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship as Spain defeated an Italy side including Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne 4-2.

Napoli midfielder Gökhan Inler captained Switzerland to a 1-0 victory over Spain at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals.