Arsenal v Napoli: Rafael Benitez would like to see Arsene Wenger win the Champions League... but not this time

Benitez brings his new side to the Emirates tonight

Rafael Benitez and Arsène Wenger will be fighting for crucial Champions League points tonight, but the Napoli manager last night made clear his deep respect for his adversary, describing him as “the best coach in the Premier League” and hoping that one day he will be successful in his quest to win the European Cup.

The two managers were close during Benitez’s two spells in the Premier League – first with Liverpool, then with Chelsea – and the Spaniard praised Wenger on Monday, saying: “I think he’s a great manager, and a great person, someone that knows the league here in England, and has experience in Europe, and is always in the top four. He is doing a great job.”

Follow live coverage of Tuesday's Champions League action, including Arsenal v Napoli, Celtic v Barcelona and Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea

While Benitez lifted the Champions League in 2005 with Liverpool, Wenger has yet to win it, losing in the final to Barcelona in 2006. Although Napoli and Arsenal are in a desperately difficult group now – along with Borussia Dortmund and Marseilles – Benitez said he would be pleased, in the future, if Wenger did finally get his hands on the European Cup. “Hopefully, he can win the Champions League, but in another year, not this one, just in case,” the Spaniard said.

Since their 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day, Arsenal have been in remarkably good form, rising to the top of the Premier League, winning in Marseilles and advancing to the last 16 of the League Cup. They have won eight of their last nine games, and took the other one in a penalty shoot-out. Benitez, though, said he was not surprised.

“I was expecting a strong team,” he said. “Wenger is the best coach in the Premier League, then they signed good players and at this point everything is going well for them.”

Tuesday night’s game will be a different challenge from Napoli’s first, when they beat Borussia Dortmund, last season’s Champions League runners-up, 2-1 at home. “Of course there is a difference,” Benitez said. “We played the first game at home against finalists, a very, very tough game. But it’s a different game now, away, we play against a team that have ball possession as a strength. Against Dortmund we had to work and be careful of counter-attacking, now we need  to change approach, as Arsenal will use ball possession.”

This will be Benitez’s first competitive game in England since he left Chelsea at the end of last season after a successful spell as interim manager, and he said on Monday night he was proud of his work at Stamford Bridge, despite his unpopularity with some supporters. “I was really pleased because we won,” he said. “We finished in the top three – that was the target – and we won the Europa League. Really pleased, and the majority of the professionals and people who follow the team every day could see we were trying to do our best and we did a good job at the end.”

While Benitez said he was very happy in Naples, he was open to the possibility of one day returning for a third spell in England. “My future is to do well with Napoli and try to win things. You never know. I am still a young manager – hopefully, I’ll be there a long time then I can manage in different countries in the future,” he said.

Benitez is certainly enjoying life in Naples for now, though, with his team just two points off the lead in Serie A. “It is a nice place, with nice fans with a lot of passion and commitment. It is very similar to Liverpool in terms of passion for the team, for football. They enjoy football and you can see that everywhere.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?