MILAN, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Napoli’s problems are mainly in the mind and should sort themselves out if their players can keep their cool, according to coach Rafael Benitez.
The Spaniard is already under pressure after his side lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Champions League playoff, a defeat which cost the club around 35 million euros ($45.10 million) in probable revenue from the group stage, and then lost 1-0 at home to Chievo last Sunday in Serie A.
“This year, it seems we have to be winning every match 5-0 by halftime, but if we were calmer, we would be winning more frequently,” Benitez told reporters ahead of Sunday’s visit to Udinese.
”We have to control our nervous energy and stay lucid, because all the goals count, even when they are scored in the 90th minute.
”We have analysed Sunday’s game and we have seen what we did well and where we went wrong. It’s the same thing I have done for the last 28 years wherever I have been.
“We have to control matches the way we did against Chievo in the first half but we also have to avoid giving teams the chance to counter-attack.”
Benitez added that the World Cup has affected the start of Napoli’s season with forward Gonzalo Higuain, who played in the Argentina team which reached the final, finding it especially difficult to rediscover his form.
“Higuain played against Athletic Bilbao after 14 days of training,” he said.
“The start of the championship in the year after a World Cup is always difficult, especially for a team like ours which has several internationals who only now are returning back to their normal level.”
Napoli, who won their opening game against Genoa, visit Udinese on Sunday (1600 GMT), just the sort of match where they dropped points last season on their way to a third place finish.
In between, they also host Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday evening.
Massimiliano Allegri faces his former club AC Milan, less eight months after they sacked him, when he leads titleholders Juventus to San Siro on Saturday (1845 GMT).
The match will be the first real test of the season for both teams, who have won their opening two games, but in very different style.
Juventus, champions for the last three seasons under Antonio Conte, have scored three goals and conceded none while Milan have scored eight goals and conceded five under new coach Filippo Inzaghi.
“To have the chance of success we must begin fighting from the first minute,” said Nigel de Jong, Milan’s combative midfielder. “It will certainly be the first real test for the new Milan, but it will also be for them.”
Striker Fernando Torres, who missed out on his Milan debut last Sunday with an ankle sprain, has trained this week and could be selected, although Milan so far have managed perfectly well without the misfiring Spaniard who is on loan from Chelsea.
AS Roma, the only other team to have won their opening two games, have a fairly straightforward match at home to Cagliari on Sunday (1300).
Inter, who fired seven goals past Sassuolo in their last match, visit promoted Palermo on Sunday (1845).
$1 = 0.7760 Euros Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Pritha Sarkar;