MILAN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri cannot get his players interested in playing in the Europa League, he said on Sunday as he described European football’s second tier club competition as invasive.
Napoli beat visiting SPAL 1-0 on Sunday to claim their ninth successive Serie A win and stay top of the table, one point clear of Juventus.
Their performance was a sharp contrast to Thursday’s dismal effort when they lost 3-1 at home to RB Leipzig in a Europa League round of 32 first leg tie.
Sarri said his players were entirely focused on trying to win Serie A for the first time since 1990 and end arch-rivals Juventus’ run of six successive titles.
“This team only seems to think about the (Italian) league and we struggle to find motivation in other competitions,” said Sarri, whose team have already been knocked out of the Champions League and Coppa Italia.
“The fact that we changed so many players against Leipzig didn’t mean that we turned our noses up at the competition. Everyone rotates their players in the Europa League which is an invasive competition.
“Having said that, I expected more enthusiasm from those who were on the pitch, but that’s a problem we’ve had since the start of the season,” he said, referring to Napoli’s record in cup competitions.
Sarri said his team should have had more to show for their efforts on Sunday than Allan’s sixth minute winner.
“We got hold of the match quickly but we neglected to finish it off,” he said. “You can’t afford to reach the 90th minute of a game like that with just a one-goal advantage.”
“We became too lazy and wanted to walk the ball into the net,” he added. “We were behaving as if we were 3-0 up, not 1-0.” (Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)