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Liverpool battle Napoli in make-or-mar clash

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By Israel Igiri

Liverpool will be hoping for another of their famous European nights, as SC Napoli come visiting at Anfield on Tuesday night. The Reds will hope for a miracle in this final group game against Group C leaders for them to make it to the last 16 of this season’s Champions League. It is certainly a game that promises to be an explosive encounter.

Last year’s runners-up sit in third place in the group behind the in-form Italians and PSG. It is a simple but difficult task for them- they have to win to qualify for the next round however, it is coming at a time the Partenopei are also playing excellently.

With Napoli, Paris Saint Germain and Liverpool still fighting for a place in the next round of the competition, there promises to be more drama on the night. While PSG are expected to do enough to see off Red Star Belgrade in Serbia, Jurgen Klopp’s men must win to secure progression, and will need to do it by a 1-0 scoreline, or by two-goal margin against Carlo Ancelotti’s men (the only unbeaten team in the group), who need just a draw to go through.

Despite struggling in Europe, Liverpool’s league form is great with three wins since their loss to PSG in November, and with the most recent one a 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth which saw a superb display from talisman Mohamed Salah, Klopp will have full confidence that his team will get a famous victory against a great Napoli side.

Napoli who are also having a great season come into this one with great confidence, having dismantled Frosinone 4-0 at home to stay second in the Italian Serie A. In fact, they have just lost twice all season. Ancelotti’s men will certainly draw inspiration from the first leg between both sides which they won 1-0 at Stadio San Paolo in early October thanks to a last minute goal by Lorenzo Insigne.

However, at Anfield on Tuesday night, Napoli will need more than 100 percent commitment and focus to go through as with home advantage together with the “You’ll never walk alone” chants from the Liverpool fans, the atmosphere will certainly be different from what they experienced in Italy and how well Ancelotti’s men are able to cope with that will go a long way in deciding their fate on the night.

Let’s take a look at the team news

For Liverpool, they will have to do without Joe Gomez who is out for six weeks after he suffered a fracture to his lower left leg in the 3-1 win against Burnley last Wednesday. The Reds only have two fit senior centre backs in Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip. Dejan Lovren missed out against Bournemouth on Saturday due to a concussion picked up in training, but should be fit for the game against Napoli. Also, Sadio Mane is fit to feature in the game after he shook off the cut in his foot with an appearance against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Napoli have no new injury concerns as Carlo Ancelotti is expected to field his strongest starting line-up. Faouzi Ghoulam returned from a long-term injury against Frosinone, and could start at left-back on Tuesday night.

       Let’s look at the permutations going into this game

  • Napoli go through with a win or a draw against Liverpool, or if PSG lose
  • PSG will go through with a win against Red Star Belgrade, or if Liverpool lose
  • Liverpool with go through as group winners with a 1-0 win, or a win by two or more clear goals against Napoli, if PSG fail to win.
  • Liverpool will go through with a win against Napoli and if PSG draw or lose against Red Star Belgrade.
  • Red Star will finish third and enter the Europa League if they beat PSG and Liverpool lose.

The Stats

  • The Reds are unbeaten in 18 successive European matches at Anfield (W13 D5), last losing at home in October 2014 against Real Madrid.
  • Napoli have not won any of their last six Champions League away matches (D2 L4), with their last victory on the road in this competition coming in Lisbon against Benfica in December 2016.
  • Liverpool and Napoli have faced each other four times (and one of those was a pre-season friendly this year, in which Liverpool won 5-0). The three times they have met in Europe ended in a win each for both sides and then a draw.

Prediction

Both teams are in great form going into this game. Both teams have got great players who can decide the outcome of the match. While Napoli will be content with a draw or a one-goal margin score loss, Liverpool must win by 1-0 score line or by two-goal margin.

Klopp’s Liverpool know how to grind out the results at Anfield on Champions League nights and with the 12th man (the fans) set to come out en masse to support the team, Napoli might not just be able to cope with the pressure.

Napoli have also shown in this season’s competition that they can hold their own when they come up against the best attacks in the world, particularly with their counter-attacking football masterminded by the pace and trickery of Insigne and Dries Mertens.

Although the game remains a close one to call as both managers have got the experience needed to get the job done for their respective sides, but based on previous European campaigns under Klopp since his move to the Merseyside, Liverpool should get the job done on the night.

 

 

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