Carlo Ancelotti insisted Napoli are “still alive” after their courageous Champions League performance at Anfield earned praise from the club’s demanding owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.
Napoli secured a hard-earned 1-1 draw against Liverpool in the Champions League, taking the lead through Dries Mertens after 21 minutes before conceding a 65th-minute Dejan Lovren leveller on Wednesday.
Amid internal problems at Napoli, head coach Ancelotti told reporters: “I have spoken to the president. He’s really pleased. He’s thanked the players for their efforts.”
De Laurentiis has looked set to impose fines on Napoli’s players who deserted a recent training retreat amid a run of disappointing form, and it remains to be seen whether that punishment will proceed.
“We’ll have to see over the next couple of days. The president wants to speak with all of the players, so I believe this is a positive sign, absolutely, on everyone’s behalf,” Ancelotti said.
He added: “I think we’re beginning to improve and leave those problems behind.
“We’ve shown a lot of commitment, hard work and character and personality. I think I’ve seen that the team’s definitely still alive. We could still do better of course, in Serie A in particular.”
Napoli sit seventh in Serie A but look like progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League, seeking to avoid defeat in their final Group E game against Genk next month to be sure.
Genk were thrashed 4-1 by Salzburg midweek, and Napoli should have more than enough to fend off the Belgian club back in Naples.
Against Liverpool, Napoli looked defensively sturdy for long stretches and particularly in the first half gave the Champions League holders’ backline plenty to do.
Ancelotti said: “I knew we were going to play well, I was convinced against a team like Liverpool. You know you’re going to suffer against a team like that, but we know we can create them problems as well.
“So I was certain we’d play well, but just because you play a good game against a team like Liverpool it doesn’t mean you get a good result.
“The game wasn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing but we were clear-minded, we were solid and our aim wasn’t to put in a fantastic performance – our aim was to get through to the next round and we need another point to do that of course.”
The veteran coach knows there is light and day between Napoli’s performance in Europe and in Serie A.
“It’s difficult to put your finger on it; it’s difficult to find an explanation,” he said. “I think it’s perhaps something in the players’ minds – a mental thing.
“I think that you need a lot of courage, show a lot of character, personality, show a great mentality. i think this is a team we have where we lose ourselves very quickly but we find ourselves quickly too and that’s a good thing.”