Liverpool host Napoli on Wednesday night in a contest that will have a huge factor in who finishes top of this Champions League group. The home side currently lead the group, but they only have one more point than the Serie A club. The Reds lost in Naples and they will be fully aware of the danger posed by Carlo Ancelotti’s men. The atmosphere at Anfield is incredible on European nights and that could have an important part to play on proceedings.
As we approach December, Liverpool have many fixtures to manage and squad rotation will have to be used by Jurgen Klopp. A victory on Wednesday will provide an opportunity for the German to do that in the final group game, as they will have an unassailable lead at the top. Their defensive record in Europe has been a concern this season, as they have conceded seven times in four matches. This has been a theme of their entire campaign and it needs to be reversed. As the current holders of the competition, this is a game that th Reds will be looking to win.
Napoli have had a strange start to the season, with lots of off-the-field issues impacting the football being played on the pitch. Carlo Ancelotti is trying to manage the storm, as the players refused to attend a training camp earlier this season. This angered the club president Aurelio De Laurentiis and there have been threats over the players’ wages. This has clearly impacted on the performances of the squad, as they have now failed to win in five league matches. They arrive at Anfield in poor form, but they have the quality to cause problems for the current Premier League leaders.
- Liverpool have lost to Napoli on two occasions since the beginning of last season. The Reds have managed to score only twice in three fixtures against them during this time period.
- Only three teams have conceded fewer goals than Napoli during the group stages of the Champions League. The Italian club have conceded on three occasions.
The Senegelese international is enjoying another excellent season, stepping up in the absence of Mohamed Salah. His team-mate has been suffering with injury niggles over the past month, but Liverpool have continued to win matches and a major reason for that has been Sadio Mane. At the time of writing, the attacker has contributed ten goals and two assists across all competitions. Klopp has taken opportunity to rest Mane during this competition at times, but he will be called upon to play a big role in this fixture. The former Southampton man has scored twice in the competition and contributed one assist. The 27-year-old has emerged as one of the most reliable goal-scorers in Europe over the last two years, scoring 16 goals in this competition since the beginning of the 2017/18 season. He played a key role in each of Liverpool’s runs to the final and he will see Wednesday as an opportunity for another big European moment.
Napoli were ambitious during the summer, as they backed Ancelotti with the hope of challenging for honours. There needs to be more attacking output from Hirving Lozano, following his big move from PSV Eindhoven. It was always likely to take time for the Mexican international to adapt to a bigger league. Ancelotti will be hoping that his recent run of two goals and one assist in four matches signifies the beginning of the 24-year-old in Naples. There is now momentum and he needs to use that to establish himself as a key player in the team. Liverpool have shown themselves to be vulnerable at the back, as shown by their poor defensive record in the group stages so far. Lozano has the direct style and recent form to suggest he could be the danger man for the visitors on Wednesday.
Mohamed Salah could be recalled to the starting eleven as he recovers from his knock. The game is likely to come too soon for Joel Matip. Xherdan Shaqiri could return to the matchday squad following injury.
Lorenzo Insigne will miss out for the visitors, in what will be a huge blow to their chances. Faouzi Ghoulam and Kevin Malcuit are also likely to miss out.
This will be one of the best fixtures of the week, as both teams will be looking to win to secure top spot in the group. Napoli’s recent form has been a concern, but Carlo Ancelotti is an experienced manager in this competition and he will have a gameplan to secure victory. The recent defensive problems of Liverpool give the visitors a chance and they are likely to score at Anfield. However, Liverpool are in an incredible run of form and the atmosphere at Anfield often pushes them on to key victories. They should have enough to confirm top spot.
Liverpool 2-1 Napoli