Path ahead tough but clear for Napoli's Pandev
Tuesday, 10 December 2013
"They are top of the Premier League, but we have to win," shrugged Goran Pandev as the SSC Napoli forward looked ahead to a tense Group F encounter with Arsenal FC.
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Three goals in the space of a week have brought a smile back to SSC Napoli striker Goran Pandev's face, but he would be happy to go without on Wednesday if it means beating Arsenal FC.
Level on nine points with Borussia Dortmund, the Partenopei will be sure of a place in the round of 16 if they post a better result against Arsenal than the German side can muster at eliminated Olympique de Marseille. A win might not be enough, though, since three sides could potentially finish Group F with 12 points – with one of them missing out depending on head-to-head results.
The maths is complicated, but the principle is simple. "The most important thing is to win against Arsenal," explained the 30-year-old Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia international. "We are focused – we have prepared really well for the match. We want the three points. The coach said we should keep our heads and not feel like we are under any pressure."
Pandev had endured a barren spell in front of goal since registering in successive Serie A games in late September, early October. However, having gone seven games without a goal in all competitions, the dam broke as he made his mark in a 4-2 win at SS Lazio on 2 December. Pandev then struck two in the space of three minutes in a 3-3 draw at home to Udinese Calcio at the weekend - his 100th game for the club in all competitions.
It may be nice to get back on the scoresheet, but Pandev's priorities lie elsewhere. "For me, it's more important that the team plays well than me scoring – the team was doing well even though I hadn't scored in a while," he explained. "Scoring goals is important for strikers, and playing with [Gonzalo] Higuaín is easy for me."
A UEFA Champions League winner in 2009/10, the former FC Internazionale Milano and Lazio man is certainly enjoying his time in Naples, saying recently that he would "like Napoli to be his last team". He added: "I don't know anything about the transfer market. I have one and a half years left on my contract and I am happy here. I wouldn't want to change team but if I had to, I would consider going abroad."
For the moment, though, there is nowhere else that he would rather be than Naples, with Arsenal providing the best challenge possible. "Arsenal are a formidable team with incredible players," Pandev noted. "They are top of the Premier League, but we have to win."