Liverpool have the chance to secure a place in the Knockout Stage of the Champions League if they beat Napoli who visit Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool sit top of Group E with nine points. Two consecutive wins over Gent have seen them leapfrog the Italians despite being on the wrong end of a defeat on the first matchday.
Napoli have been making the news for all the wrong reasons over the past couple of weeks. Off the field problems have not helped that they are under-performing in Serie A and risk been knocked out of Europe’s main competition.
Liverpool are unbeaten domestically, sitting top of the Premier League with 37 points from 39. Their most recent win came on Saturday against Crystal Palace. Jürgen Klopp has never dropped points there.
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The Reds were poor in the first half, they where unlucky not to go into the break behind. James Tomkins thought he had put the Eagles into the lead, but his headed effort was ruled out by VAR after a foul in the build up to his goal.
Sadio Mané put Liverpool ahead through after his goal-bound shot rolled in after hitting both posts. Roberto Firmino could and should have doubled the Reds’ advantage but Vicente Guaita made a smart save to keep his side just a goal behind.
That save looked to be vital when Wilfried Zaha levelled for the home side with eight minutes to go. Three minutes later Firmino made up for his earlier miss to score the winner after pinball in the penalty area following a corner.
Napoli currently sit seventh in Serie A, five points behind Cagliari and are winless in their last five games (4D, 1L). Their on field performances have not been helped by off-field issues. Club president, Aurelio De Laurentiis has threatened to freeze the players wages and even cut them by 25%.
Many of the players have not been paid their wages for the month of October and their form has shown. Since the start of October they have won only once, against Hellas Verona by two goals.
Their league position is down to the amount of draws they have amassed, not defeats. Since the beginning of their off-field troubles they have lost only once — against Roma. It is the five draws against teams who have an average position of 13th that is the big issue.
Jürgen Klopp has no new injury concerns to worry about, Joël Matip is still out but is nearing a return from injury.
Mo Salah was rested at the weekend to allow him a few more days recovery over an ongoing ankle problem. Andy Robertson has a similar problem but was able to play so he should be available for selection.
That means that Klopp should field a full-strength first team, which could see either Naby Keïta or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain start in midfield to add an extra attacking edge.
The Italians usually deal with our front three surprisingly well — in three games they have conceded only once. An extra body running in to the box from midfield should create more space for them to cause damage.
Lorenzo Insigne misses out for the Italians with an elbow problem. Arkadiusz Milik, Faouzi Ghoulam and Kévin Malcuit are also out for the injury-hit Partenopei.
Napoli used a very attacking line-up in the reverse fixture, the quartet of Insigne, Jose Callejón, Dries Mertens and Hirving Lozano all played while Allan and Fabián kept things tidy in midfield.
With a busy winter schedule a win would allow Klopp to play a weakened side in Salzburg. Liverpool don’t know when they are beaten and have come up with many late winners over the last few weeks. With Napoli in turmoil, there is no better time to seal our place in the next round.
That being said our record against the Italians is poor, despite the fact that we progressed ahead of them last season following a 1-0 win. Lorenzo Insigne will be a big miss for the Italians — the winger has been Napoli’s most dangerous player in the three games the two sides have faced over the past two seasons.
I think Liverpool will be quite comfortable. Klopp has never lost a home game in Europe while in charge of the Reds and that record could well be extended. Sadio Mané will continue his goof form and will get on the scoresheet along with Salah.
Predicted final score: Liverpool 3-1 Napoli