Soccer-New Napoli coach Calzona plans reset for Barcelona clash

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

Soccer Football - Champions League - Napoli Press Conference - Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy - February 20, 2024 Napoli coach Francesco Calzona during the press conference REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - Struggling Napoli will hit the reset button on their season when they face Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, caretaker coach Francesco Calzona said.

The 55-year-old Calzona was appointed until the end of the season on Monday after Walter Mazzarri was sacked.

Mazzarri became the second managerial casualty at the club this season following Rudi Garcia's sacking in November.

"We start from today, press the reset button on everything, start a new journey. I found a team that was immediately at my disposal. We don’t need many words, we need action right now, so got straight to work," Calzona told reporters on Tuesday.

His first match in charge of the Serie A champions will be the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona at home on Wednesday.

"We do not have much time, so I told the players we have no more excuses, we must improve our position at this moment," he said.

"Clearly, Barcelona are a strong team, one of the best in Europe, even if they went through a few difficult moments.

"We will absolutely not be playing for a draw. If Barcelona do so well that they force us to play a draw, then we tip our hats to them, but we play to win."

Since Luciano Spalletti left the club after last season's Scudetto triumph, the team have crumbled, and are in ninth place in the Serie A standings, 27 points behind leaders Inter Milan and nine behind Atalanta in fourth.

"(Club president) Aurelio De Laurentiis is unhappy with the current situation, he has asked me to believe in our objective, which is to move forward in the Champions League and get up to fourth in the league," Calzona said.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Toby Davis)

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