Balotelli a big loss but Nice are still dangerous, warns Napoli boss Sarri

Nice will be dangerous opponents for Napoli despite the absence of striker Mario Balotelli, head coach Maurizio Sarri has warned.

The Italy international will miss Wednesday's Champions League play-off first leg due to a hamstring injury, while new signing Wesley Sneijder is also unavailable.

Sarri is happy not to have to contend with Balotelli but he is not expecting an easy victory for his side, despite them being clear favourites to progress.

"Nice look as though they play with a dangerous change of pace and can cause us problems, especially as they have already played some competitive football this season and eliminated Ajax, the Europa League finalists last year," Sarri told a news conference.

"I heard last season people say Juventus had a really tough draw against Lyon, but Nice picked up many more Ligue 1 points than they did, so it's going to be extremely difficult.

"Balotelli is a big loss for them but Sneijder hasn't actually played for Nice yet, so doesn't really count as an absentee. Without Balotelli, there is Alassane Plea, who has different characteristics and reminds me of Gregoire Defrel [on loan at Roma from Sassuolo].

"Jean Seri in the middle seems destined for a top club, while Dante played for Bayern Munich.

"We can't think that we'll just steamroller them, but we will be competitive both at home and away. The fact is that we do tend to allow things defensively, so we must be very careful."

Napoli were knocked out at the last-16 stage by eventual winners Real Madrid last season after finishing top of a group containing Benfica, Besiktas and Dynamo Kiev.

Sarri believes the city deserves to have Champions League representation and concedes that "there will be repercussions" if they fail to qualify.

"We represent a city that is worthy of a place in the Champions League," he said.

"There will be repercussions whatever happens and we want to get through at all costs."

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