Napoli and Manchester City have home demands before thinking of Europe

Striking the correct balance between the domestic league and the Champions League is difficult but it can be done

When doling out the credit to recent Champions League winners, one of the most startling aspects of their achievement is how often they marry European success with honours on the home front. To win the Champions League and domestic title simultaneously, to keep up the momentum when the rhythm, mood and intensity of two big competitions can differ quite considerably (not to mention all the travelling and extra late nights), it ought to be too much to ask. And yet, in the past decade, Barcelona have accomplished it three times. Internazionale, Manchester United, Porto and Bayern Munich have cracked it too.

The great juggling act was a recent topic for discussion for Arrigo Sacchi, the Italian coach who didn't quite manage it when he had the pleasure of guiding the legendary Milan of the late 1980s and early 1990s. A stellar team that included Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Roberto Donadoni, Carlo Ancelotti. They won scudetti, and European Cups, but never together.

Sacchi spared a thought for Napoli, who on Saturday night face domestic pace-setters Lazio before turning their attention to Manchester City. The Premier League leaders visit the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday for what promises to be a firecracker of a night that will go a long way to deciding which of the two progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League. "It is difficult, if not impossible, for Napoli to avoid distraction against Lazio," Sacchi noted. He added that it was entirely understandable – even reasonable – for the Partenopei to hold something back in reserve for the European challenge, despite the importance of their Serie A fixture.

"The Champions League necessarily has to be given more importance compared to the domestic tournament, so they are right to privilege it," Sacchi told the deliciously named Radio Kiss Kiss. "It can bring you such international fame, experience and economic rewards. In any case, in Italy if you don't get results then you are always considered to be wrong.

"Napoli are currently paying the price that all clubs do, even those who are used to competing in Europe for 30 years. They perhaps pay a little more, as it is clear their players are not accustomed to the emotional drain this competition requires. I hope that Napoli can achieve the fantastic result of qualifying from the Group of Death." Napoli's coach, Walter Mazzarri, insists they won't think about Manchester City until Sunday. More easily said than done, though.

City are in a similar boat. Historically, the biggest game in the Premier League this weekend might be Chelsea versus Liverpool. But currently, City's tussle with unbeaten Newcastle United is the standout fixture. Roberto Mancini, and many of his players, might be well versed in the Champions League, but as a club, and as a group, it is new territory. Admittedly they have more resources than most, but they still need to strike the right balance in best using them to manage a two-pronged attack on major targets. In their next run of fixtures they meet Newcastle, Napoli, Liverpool, Arsenal (twice), Bayern Munich, Chelsea – and not forgetting Norwich. You get the picture.

Borussia Dortmund are another team who go into this weekend with a very full plate in front of them. They visit league leaders Bayern in the Bundesliga, then head to Arsenal on Wednesday night with their European future at stake. Such has been their recent recovery, Borussia are confident that they can make a late push to qualify from their group, and they travel to Munich buoyed by having won 3-1 at the Allianz Arena last season. But it will be a huge achievement for Jürgen Klopp's young team to profit in both fixtures.

"This season Bayern are the favourites for everything," Klopp reckons. "And so also for a home win against Borussia Dortmund. We know we will need to do many things right to get something from Munich." Klopp is mindful that as much as victory last term gives them encouragement, it also provides Bayern with a taste for revenge. "The curse of the good deed," he calls it.

With a hugely significant couple of fixtures on the horizon, it is all hotting up nicely.

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