Maurizio Sarri said his players are more interested in winning Serie A than they are in the Europa League.

Maurizio Sarri admitted he’s struggling to motivate his players for Napoli’s Europa League game against RB Leipzig on Thursday, confirming that they are too focused on winning Serie A this season.

Napoli currently lead the league by a point over Juventus and with the prospect of winning a first Scudetto since 1990 looking more real than in decades, Sarri admitted doing without Europa League games could help in a season in which he believes Napoli are not tuned for European football.

“This is a European competition and it’s fascinating, but it’s borderline crazy considering the stress caused by the short time from the full-time whistle of the Leipzig game to the kick-off against SPAL [on Sunday],” Sarri said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“Everybody wants to keep getting better, but first of all, we’ve got to be competitive in Italy and then in Europe. This year, we’re struggling to have the mentality of a big club in Europe. It’s not only our fault — it also comes from us having more hunger when we play in Serie A.

“The league is crucially important for us, but we need to find the strength to open ourselves up to the idea of playing in Europe. I find it hard enough to motivate my players for European games, so if we start talking about the league, it’s only going to demotivate them even more.”

Only 6,000 tickets had been sold for Thursday’s fixture as of earlier this week and a crowd of less than 10,000 is expected for the game at the Stadio San Paolo. Napoli fans also find it hard to summon the energy and enthusiasm for European football in a season they hope will end with domestic glory.

“They’re more bothered about the league,” Sarri said. “But I hope the club did all they could to convince as many people as possible to come. Maybe some will change their minds at the last minute and come to the San Paolo to give us the usual warmth.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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Maurizio Sarri said his players are more interested in winning Serie A than they are in the Europa League.Maurizio Sarri admitted he's struggling to motivate his players for Napoli's Europa League game against RB Leipzig on Thursday, confirming that they are too focused on winning Serie A this...