Rafa Benitez ready for UCL challenge
Napoli are going to have their work cut out replicating their last Champions League performance and making it through the group stages after being drawn with Arsenal, Marseille and Borussia Dortmund in arguably the standout group.
The Serie A side got the better of Manchester City and Villarreal to reach the last 16 in 2011-12, but to repeat that, they will have to see off last year’s beaten finalists Dortmund, 16-time consecutive participants Arsenal and Ligue 1 runners-up Marseille.
Their new coach Rafa Benitez, who lifted the trophy against the odds with Liverpool in 2005, will be looking to plot a similarly unexpected success story this season.
"When you talk about the Champions League, you know all groups are tough," Benitez told UEFA.com. "Ours is one of the most balanced. Certainly, it will be difficult because we will be facing teams who have great experience in the Champions League.
"It will be a great challenge for us. Borussia [Dortmund] are a top club, they reached the final last season and they play great football. We faced Arsenal recently in London for the Emirates Cup, so we know them well. They have a great manager who is very experienced at European level.
"Against Marseille, I had my first success in Europe, the  UEFA Cup final with Valencia. It won't be easy in their stadium because their fans are very passionate."
Napoli’s director of sport Riccardo Bigon believes Arsenal, Marseille and Dortmund are not going to be particularly delighted to be meeting them.
"In these years, we have gained a certain degree of credibility in Europe, but let’s not forget that we were still in the fourth pot of seeds due to the many years of absence from Europe," he told Sky Italia. "We’ve risen up again now, but we still have a long way to go.
"The Champions League is the most beautiful competition in the world because of the strength of the participants. It’s impossible to make predictions. We’re in a very complicated group, but our aim is to give it a go and to go through."
Arsenal, Marseille and Dortmund were drawn in the same Champions League group two seasons ago, with the German side failing to make it into the knockout stages.
However, captain Sebastian Kehl is hopeful that they will be able to go one better this, but concedes the club have been handed a tough draw.
"The constellation in our group strongly reminds me of our Champions League games two years ago," he said. "We have the chance to make it better against Arsenal and Marseille as the first time we had returned after a long Champions League absence. This makes for the special thrill of an ambitious group, which is extremely balanced. We might have got a stronger, but certainly also a less difficult group. With Napoli we got the strongest team from pot four."
Dortmund CEO Aki Watze added: "In the past Champions League season we have also been part of a very difficult Champions League group. Two years ago we only won one point in our games against Arsenal and Marseille and did not make it past the group stage. Now we have the chance to show our 2011 opponents that we have developed."