CARLO ANCELOTTI will never forget his most recent trip to the Emirates…nor his last encounter with Unai Emery.
For the former Chelsea favourite was the Bayern Munich coach when they smashed Arsenal 10-2 on aggregate in the Champions League two years ago.
But less than six months later he was given the boot by the German Champions following a 3-0 defeat by Emery’s PSG in a Champions League group game.
So it is hardly surprising that the veteran Italian is expecting a much tougher test from Emery’s team than he got from his good friend Arsene Wenger.
He says: “I will never forget those games against Arsenal with Bayern but now it is only a good memory and this week will be a totally different story.
“Emery has a lot more experience in the Europa League than I do and the fact that he will be on the Arsenal bench makes it more difficult for me.
“I have a lot of respect for Arsenal and it’s an honour to be playing them in the quarter-finals, but it’s a new era for this club.
“Everything has changed for them this year – new manager, different players and a different style.”
Ancelotti had two years at Chelsea and won the League and FA Cup double in his first season in 2009.
Now he says: “London was an amazing experience and I found a great environment in England.
“Here is the perfect place to play football. No violence, the stadiums are full, new and beautiful and the gap between the Premier League and the rest of Europe has grown even more since I was at Chelsea.
I DECIDED OZIL’S FUTURE
“When racism happens in Italy it is taken quite lightly, but in England it is a real scandal and only when we view this in the same light can we say that we are approaching the English model.”
Yet he denies suggestions that Wenger recommended him to the Arsenal board as his successor last year before he replaced Maurizio Sarri at Napoli.
“Arsene is a good friend and we met in Geneva last September, but we only spoke about the difference between the wine and food in France and in Italy.
“We didn’t speak about coming to replace him. I was never involved in the new era at Arsenal.”
Yet while Ancelotti still counts Wenger among his closest friends, he is not sure what kind of reception he will get from Mesut Ozsil this evening.
It was Ancelotti who decided to sell Ozil to Arsenal for £42million in 2013 after just one match as Real Madrid manager.
He explained: “I decided on the departure of Ozil because I preferred Angel Di Maria for the balance of the team.
“It’s true that Di Maria maybe has less quality than Ozil but I prefer him in terms of dynamism, character and his willingness to help the team.”
But now he insists: “I didn’t have a lot of time with Ozil but he has had a fantastic career.
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“The reason we sold him is because he received a good offer from Arsenal and he wanted a new experience. Me and club gave the possibility to do that.
“I don’t know if he will play against us this week but if he does it will be difficult for us.”
LIkely Napoli line-up (4-4-2): Meret; Hysai, Koulibaly, Maksimovic, Mario Rui; Callejon, Allan, Ruiz, Zielinski; Milik, Martens