Arsenal place faith in ex-Chelsea boss for Champions League progress

Rafa Benitez 02

Rafael Benitez remains wary of Borussia Dortmund as Arsenal hope to receive a boost to their Champions League aspirations from Napoli on Tuesday.

The Spanish tactician’s side defeated last season’s beaten finalists at the Stadio San Paolo to open their continental campaign back in September, but face a test of a different nature in preparing to confront the Bundesliga giants in the shadow of the Yellow Wall this week.

Group F remains poised for a dramatic finish whether the clubs qualifying for the knockout stages are confirmed in the upcoming fifth or final round of matches, as Napoli and Arsenal are perched at the summit on nine points, followed by Dortmund with six as downtrodden Marseille prop up the table with four losses to show for their efforts.

A draw at the Westfalenstadion would be enough to see the Serie A outfit through with a game to spare, whilst a simultaneous matching result or better for the Gunners at home to Marseille would book the Premier League leaders’ ticket to the final 16.

And as Arsene Wenger’s charges and all those surrounding the Emirates camp will be keen to avoid the need for heroics on the final match day of the group stage in southern Italy, there will be no shortage of wishes in north London that Napoli reproduce Arsenal’s positive result on German soil earlier this month come kick-off.

“We have great respect for Dortmund,” Benitez told a press conference ahead of Tuesday evening’s crucial contest.

“We are talking about an opponent of the highest level.

“We’re looking forward to measuring ourselves against a great squad. We need the whole team to do a great job defensively if we want to do well.

“It’s a very important game for us tomorrow. We’re coming up against a great side, but we have to stay calm and focused if we want to do well.”

Arsenal and associates will be troubled by Napoli’s recent form, as the Partenopei bowed to a crushing 3-0 loss to Juventus prior to the international break before falling victim to Parma’s lethal counter-attacking football 1-0 at the weekend.

Yet Benitez insisted that dips in form are only natural given a packed fixture list, claiming his squad has attained a new level of focus in anticipation of what is sure to be an intense encounter with Jurgen Klopp’s men.

“We’ve played a lot of games this season at a very high level, so it’s only normal that we would drop off a bit," he continued.

“But we’ve been training at our very best ahead of this match.”

Wenger will certainly hope that the former Liverpool and Chelsea boss’ assessment of the situation is correct, as a positive result for Napoli would be eternally helpful for the Gunners, provided they do the expected and dispatch Marseille.

So for now, Arsenal will have to trust in Benitez. And that trust will need to last, of course, only until the Italian side either succeed in Germany or the possibility of a Group F-deciding showdown in Naples on December 11 becomes reality.

image: © thesportreview

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch