Laudrup: Napoli tie is just reward
16th December 2013
Swans boss Michael Laudrup believes their top-drawer tie against Napoli in the Europa League is just reward for the efforts of his squad and the fantastic support of the fans.
The Swans will play the Italian giants over two-legs in late February after qualifying for the last 32 knockout stage for the first time in the club's history.
Napoli, who were third in Arsenal's Champions League group, finished second in Serie A last season and sit third in the current campaign.
And while it couldn't get much tougher than a trip to face Rafa Benitez's side at the 60,000-capacity Stadio San Paolo, Laudrup is looking forward to the challenge.
"It is probably the hardest tie we could have had,'' he admitted. "I said before the draw that I felt Napoli and Juventus were the best teams in the competition. But I also said that my players and our fans deserved a big club.
"The squad has already played 27 games so far this season, which has not been easy, while the fans have given fantastic support throughout. Over 1,000 fans travelled to St Gallen last week which is amazing and says everything about the supporters at this club.
"Napoli is certainly a big club; with a very good team and a top manager. They won all their home games in the Champions League and for a club to fail to qualify after picking up 12 points is unheard of.
"It is certainly a tie for everyone to look forward to. It will be a great experience for the team, the club, the fans and the city."
Napoli manager Rafa Benitez said: "It's a challenging opponent. Over the last few years they have made great progress. They're a growing team that plays good football.
"Michael Laudrup loves possession and they have quality elements such as Michu, who has great talent."
Napoli chairman, Aurelio De Laurentiis, added: "Swansea is a tough team, but we want to move forward in Europe.
"They are tenth in England and have a good squad. They have made so many strides as a Welsh team
"We'll have so much respect, but no fear. Benitez knows English football very well and will know how to be able to win."
The Swans will be home in the first-leg at the Liberty Stadium on February 20 with the return at Stadio San Paolo on February 27.
Meanwhile, the Swans will face either FC Porto or Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League Quarter-Final if they beat Napoli.
Ties are played March 13 and 20.