PA Sport

Napoli aim to book Champions League last-16 place with victory over Besiktas

Napoli aim to book Champions League last-16 place with victory over Besiktas
By PA Sport

18/10/2016 at 19:04

Napoli can create Champions League history if they beat Besiktas on Wednesday night at Stadio San Paolo by qualifying for the knockout stages with three Group B games left to play.

Maurizio Sarri's side have already beaten Dynamo Kiev and Benfica and will become the first club to reach the last 16 at such an early stage of the competition with a third straight win if those two sides draw in Ukraine.

Napoli were on a roll when they defeated Benfica 4-2 at home last month, having registered six wins and two draws in all competitions, but successive Serie A defeats - to Atalanta and Roma - have halted their momentum.

"Maybe it's easier for us to play in Europe because it's easier to find motivation in UEFA Champions League games," Sarri was quoted as saying on

"I would like to see my team playing with enthusiasm despite the recent results.

"We will also need to be very focused because we are facing a strong side who are difficult to beat as their results are there to witness.

"Besiktas played two good games in the group. I especially liked their performance in Lisbon as they never gave up even when they were struggling against Benfica."

The loss of striker Arkadiusz Milik to a cruciate ligament injury sustained earlier this month while on duty for Poland has been a huge blow to Napoli.

Milik's two first-half headers helped Napoli to victory last month in Kiev and his seven goals in 10 appearances suggested he was an able replacement for Gonzalo Higuain, who departed for Juventus in the summer.

Sarri could continue with Manolo Gabbiadini in Milik's absence or start with Dries Mertens in an unfamiliar central role up front.

Besiktas have made an impressive start in their domestic league, unbeaten in seven games, while successive 1-1 draws in Group B against Benfica and Kiev have left them in second place.

Coach Senol Gunes is hoping to guide the club into the knockout stages for the first time in six attempts, but they have not won in 11 previous encounters with Italian opposition.

Midfielder Gokhan Inler will make an emotional return to Naples. The Switzerland international became a fans' favourite during his time at Stadio San Paolo before joining Leicester in August 2015 and then moving on to Besiktas in the summer.

"It's going to be a great feeling as I spent four years there and improved a lot," Inler said.

"Before I went to Napoli I'd been to the San Paolo and scored against them (for Udinese in 2011). Now coming back is an even greater feeling, and I'm really looking forward to the tw o matches against them.

"It's going to be nice to see my friends again and play against them."