Rafa Benitez has steadied the ship at Napoli after a rough start

Napoli manager Rafa Benitez is preparing his side for their upcoming Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter Milan tomorrow.

Despite getting off to a slow start, the Spaniard has found a way to navigate the Azzurri to a deep run in the cup and into a Champions League position in Serie A; they also advanced to the Europa League Round of 32 as group winners in December.

Just a few months ago, rumors were running rampant in the Italian media linking the manager with an exit from the Serie A club. According to the Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport the manager was reportedly seen as a “dead man walking”  by his own players, who were anticipating his imminent departure.

At the time, Napoli were in seventh place and trailed league-leading Juventus by 12 points.

Prior to the start of the season, Benitez’s side were considered to be contenders for the Scudetto. But a rough opening to the campaign (which included being knocked out of the Champions League play-off by Athletic Bilbao) saw the club staggering through the early months of the new season, and had their manager linked with the sack.

But Benitez ignored the speculation, focused on his team and continued with his steady managerial approach. What followed has been increasingly consistent performances from his squad and a slow climb up the table.

Napoli still trail Juventus by a considerable amount of points (11), but the Partenopei are currently third place in the Serie A standings, five points ahead of fourth place Lazio. They have won four of their last five league matches and only trail second place Roma by four points.

Napoli’s Europa League campaign will resume later this month when they travel to Turkey for the first leg of their Round of 32 tie against Trabzonspor. But for now, the focus remains on the league and tomorrow’s Coppa Italia quarter-final against Internazionale at the San Paolo.

“As far as what we do, we’ve changed almost nothing,” Benitez said during his pre-match press conference. “We’ve always worked from the same basic ideas.”

“We’ve dropped some points along the way, but we can’t change what has happened, we have to look at what will happen in the future. We have to win, not talk.”

“The lads are working well, and we’re getting results, but Inter are a very strong team and we need to concentrate.”

“We think one game at a time.”

Programming note: Napoli vs. Internazionale will be shown on tape delay tomorrow night at 7:00pm EST on beINSPORTS and DishWorld.


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