Napoli captain Marek Hamsik insists AC Milan are to be feared as they occupy a false position in the Serie A table.
The Slovakian schemer has played a key role in Napoli’s blistering start to the season, which has seen them thus far hold off the challenge of reigning champions Juventus.
Milan, despite spending more than 200 million euros on new players in the summer, are in a distant seventh place after losing five of their 12 games largely thanks to a leaky defence.
But Hamsik believes the Rossoneri still have what it takes to improve and gatecrash the Champions League places, even backing Vincenzo Montella’s underperformers to launch a late title bid.
He told sscnapoli.it: “We are coming up against a very strong opponent, who are much better than their current ranking says they are. Milan have a quality squad and will want to prove that here.
“We will have to make the most of the opportunity and compete properly because every game is important in such a difficult league.
“Milan are among the teams who will challenge for the Scudetto.
“It’s a long race track and everybody can recover points. There are five or six teams separated by only a few points so every game is crucial.”
Hamsik is in an interesting position to comment on Italy’s surprise failure to qualify for the World Cup as his own national team, Slovakia, came up just short in their own campaign.
They finished second to England in their group but missed out on the play-offs as they were the worst of the nine runners-up.
“Not getting to the World Cup is a bad thing even for us in Slovakia,” he said. “Italian football remains one of the most beautiful and important styles in the world, but it is behind some of its rivals.
“From this defeat, a new stronger future can emerge and I’m sure Italian football can be rebuilt.”
Milan full-back Ricardo Rodriguez hopes to confirm Hamsik’s suspicions that the Rossoneri mean business this season.
He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “We know Napoli are a very strong team. They move the ball well and it will be a very difficult game. But we are strong too and we want to show that we can win.
“We must try to win in Naples and then we can look at future targets.
“I think the whole team has a lot of quality but we will have to play attacking football.”