Ex-Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez believes Napoli can win the Champions League

Former Premier League manager Rafael Benitez has tipped Napoli to go far in this season’s Champions League – saying that they even have the potential to win it all.

Of course, Benitez has some experience of success in the competition himself. The Spaniard guided Liverpool to their fifth European crown, winning the incredible 2005 Final in Istanbul. Since the Reds, Rafael Benitez has managed numerous teams in the Champions League – including Inter, Real Madrid, and Napoli.

Now, in an interview with Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Benitez picked out the Partenopei for success in Europe.

“When we talk about favourites in the Champions League everyone always says the same names,” said the Spaniard, quoted via Football Italia. “Real Madrid, Man City, and so on. For me, Napoli have all the cards to impose themselves in Europe as well.

“They have nothing to lose, they play well, plus they have a large advantage in the league, which will not be a great distraction at the physical and mental level. They can go ahead in Europe and the more they do that, the more they will grow.”

He added: “And then I know what the euphoria of a city like Naples means in terms of support for the team. So, why not?

“With this, I am not saying Napoli will win the Champions League – but only that they can.”

Despite not going all-in on his prediction, Rafael Benitez still thinks that the Serie A leaders can shock Europe’s elite this year. Given the way Napoli have been playing in 2022/23, you can see why.

Napoli: A Champions League & Serie A double?

The Naples-based side have been nothing short of incredible throughout this season. Currently, Napoli are runaway leaders of the Italian topflight. They have amassed a 15-point advantage at the top of the table having lost just once all season.

Napoli have achieved this thanks to a fantastic attack that boasts a league-best 56 goals from 23 games. Leading the line is Victor Osimhen with 18 goals. Meanwhile, breakout star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is providing top-notch service via his nine assists.

But it’s not just the frontline that deserves all the plaudits. Napoli also possess Serie A’s best defensive record, conceding just 15 goals.

In Europe, the Partenopei easily negotiated a group that had looked tough on paper. They kicked off their UCL campaign by demolishing Liverpool 4-1 at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona before rolling over Rangers. Then, a 6-1 win in Amsterdam against Ajax cemented their place as the top team in the group.

Two more wins followed before Liverpool got their revenge by defeating the Serie A side 2-0 at Anfield. Despite this, Napoli finished top of Group A, solidifying their status as a force to be reckoned with.

Who do Napoli have in the UCL round of 16?

Luciano Spalletti’s side take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the first UCL knockout stage on Tuesday night. The Bundesliga outfit reached the round of 16 after progressing from a group featuring Spurs, Sporting, and Marseille.

Domestically, Frankfurt are sixth in Germany’s topflight – but don’t let that fool you. They are a tough test in a European tie, evidenced by their success in last season’s Europa League. Additionally, their passionate fanbase for the 1st leg at home could inspire a surprise result.

Nevertheless, given their relentless form domestically, many will expect Napoli to safely negotiate this first Champions League test.

UCL Round of 16

1st leg: Eintracht Frankfurt vs Napoli – 21 February, 8pm kick-off
2nd leg: Napoli vs Eintracht Frankfurt – 15 March, 8pm kick-off