Napoli and Inter bosses feeling the pressure
PARIS (AP) — Napoli and Inter Milan coaches Rafa Benitez and Walter Mazzarri fear anything but wins in the Europa League on Thursday could cost them their jobs.
They face Young Boys and Saint Etienne, respectively.
The pressure has been building on Benitez following a slow start in Serie A. It has alleviated somewhat after three successive home wins but another defeat to the Swiss side would see it go right back up.
Napoli fans pelted the team bus with stones after a 2-0 defeat against Young Boys in Switzerland ended a perfect record in Group I.
Matters are worse for Inter, and even club president Erick Thohir appears to be losing patience with Mazzarri, who has overseen two wins in their last six games.
Thohir is likely to travel to France for the match and has hinted that the former Napoli coach’s future will be decided within two games.
A goalless draw at San Siro left Inter comfortably atop of Group F, but calls for Mazzarri’s head grew after a dismal 2-0 defeat at bottom club Parma.
“I wish with all my heart that there are no matches like the Parma one,” playmaker Hernanes said. “We don’t want to throw this season away.”
Defending champion Sevilla looks to bounce back from its weekend defeat to Athletic Bilbao. Here are some things to know about Thursday’s games:
KANE SO ABLE: Tottenham has found a young scoring talent in Harry Kane, and the 21-year-old forward will be confident of reaching double figures for the season at Greek side Asteras Tripolis.
Kane score a hat trick against the Greek side at White Hart Lane two weeks ago, and his winning goal against Aston Villa last weekend took his season tally to an impressive nine in 13 appearances. He also netted in consecutive games for England Under-21s last month.
Kane has taken some of the pressure off misfiring Emmanuel Adebayor, who has found the net only twice, and Spanish striker Roberto Soldado, who has yet to score.
HUNGRY WOLFSBURG: Wolfsburg finally seems to be living up to the promise made possible by the financial support of Volkswagen.
Apart from the championship year in 2009, Wolfsburg’s stated ambition of becoming a permanent member of the Champions League could become true. The team has become more consistent under the guidance of coach Dieter Hecking and playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has shone.
Wolfsburg is second in the Bundesliga on goal difference, and after being rewarded with two days off, the players should be hungry for goals at home to Krasnodar, having beaten the Russian side 4-2 away two weeks ago.
With Everton facing a tricky home game against defensively robust Lille, this could be a chance for Wolfsburg to move to the top of Group H.
“This is going to be the most important match for us in Europe thus far, and if we win we’ll be on the right way,” Croatia midfielder Ivan Perisic said.
HOME FORTRESS: Getting a win at Sevilla promises to be a hard task for Standard Liege, considering the Spanish side has lost only one of its last 11 European home games.
Under coach Unai Emery, Sevilla has made its best ever start to a league season and is right behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.
Sevilla drew 0-0 in Liege two weeks ago, and is one point ahead of the Belgian side in Group G. But Liege will be confident after winning its past three league games without conceding a goal.
GIVE US A GOAL: When Michel Platini used to run Saint-Etienne’s midfield toward the end of its European heyday in the 1970s, Les Verts used to score for fun.
But this season it has been turgid stuff for Saint-Etienne fans in Europe, with three 0-0 draws making it dull to watch Christophe Galtier’s brittle and well-organized team, where resolute defending and scrappy late goals have become the norm.
Saint-Etienne has managed a meager 12 goals in 12 games in the French league, and top-scorers Max-Alain Gradel and Mevlut Erding have three each.