Dries Mertens expects a tough tie against Arsenal in the Europa League quarter-final, but he thinks his team have to be confident going into the game.

PARMA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24: Carlo Ancelotti head coach of SSC Napoli looks on during the Serie A match between Parma Calcio and SSC Napoli at Stadio Ennio Tardini on February 24, 2019 in Parma, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)
PARMA, ITALY – FEBRUARY 24: Carlo Ancelotti head coach of SSC Napoli looks on during the Serie A match between Parma Calcio and SSC Napoli at Stadio Ennio Tardini on February 24, 2019, in Parma, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Speaking to Radio Kiss Kiss in Italy (via Quotidiano), Mertens discussed his side’s upcoming Europa League draw against Unai Emery’s side.

“We witnessed the draw all together and we know that with the Gunners it will be tough, as it was in the Champions League with Liverpool and PSG,” the Belgian said. “On those occasions, however, we did well, which is why we have to be confident.

“We have already faced them in the past, at the time of Benitez. Since then, we have grown so much despite having lost many players. Whoever left has been replaced properly, while those who remain have more experience, an ingredient that makes us stronger. Meanwhile, however, we must think about the Serie A championship.”

It’s true that Mertens has already faced Arsenal twice in competitive fixtures. First, he featured in a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium, with Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil scoring the goals.

Then, he started in a 2-0 victory at home in the final game of the group stage. It was a match they knew they needed to win by three goals to remain in the competition, so the win will still leave Mertens with a bad taste in his mouth.

The 31-year-old also played in an Emirates Cup game against Arsenal back in 2013. Napoli took a 2-0 lead in the first half before Giroud and Laurent Koscielny pegged them back for a 2-2 draw.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 14: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019, in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Arguably, both teams are stronger now than they were back then. Napoli have lost Gonzalo Higuain, but as a whole, they’ve improved significantly. Meanwhile, Arsenal have traded up from Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, so they’re certainly more of a threat in front of goal.

We’ll see how the tie pans out next month. Fingers crossed it’s just as disappointing for Mertens as the last time the two teams met.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.