Napoli have returned to the winner’s board ahead of Liverpool’s visit in mid-week after securing a 2-0 victory over Sampdoria, with Dries Mertens bagging a brace.
The Serie A outfit are the first side set to test the mettle of the reigning European champions in Group E when the Champions League makes its return for the Reds at Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday evening.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are no strangers to Jurgen Klopp and his chargers having met in the last two pre-seasons and in the group stage of the European tournament last season, but as Liverpool secured a 3-1 win over Newcastle, Napoli followed with a victory of their own.
It was the third game of the league season for the Italians who had played a part in back-to-back seven-goal thrillers, first with a 4-3 win over Fiorentina before they fell to a heartbreaking last gasp 4-3 defeat to Juventus.
And while their defence had failed to shut out the opposition in the game’s prior, there was no way through for Sampdoria on Saturday night as Napoli dominated proceedings.
The Serie A outfit were quick out of the box, peppering the visitors’ goal from the off with the breakthrough coming with 12 minutes on the clock as Mertens found the corner, with summer signing Hirving Lozano providing the assist.
And the finishing touches were again added by Mertens midway through the second term having led the line in impressive fashion – before being withdrawn with 10 minutes remaining with the Reds’ visit no doubt in mind.
He spearheaded his side in the absence of Arkadiusz Milik and skipper Lorenzo Insigne – who was introduced with 15 minutes remaining having sustained a minor muscle injury against Juventus.
After initial fears over Insigne’s ability to be fit for Liverpool’s visit, Ancelotti will be buoyed by his impressive cameo as the Italian was the man to sink the Reds in last season’s respective meeting.
Milik’s availability, however, remains unlikely as he is only expected to return to training on Monday having suffered a setback in his recovery from a groin injury which has seen him sit out all of Napoli’s games to date.
But Ancelotti told reporters that “I have many options available to me in attack now” following his sides’ win as Lozano and former Tottenham forward Fernando Llorente – who both notched assists against Sampdoria – are capable of slotting in the side along with Mertens and Insigne.
For Liverpool, their only concern heading into the match is Divock Origi who will undergo a scan on his ankle after being withdrawn in the first half, an injury which could pave the way for Rhian Brewster to be named in the matchday squad.
Moreover, while Napoli will be boosted by a clean sheet, they will be tested by the effervescent trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane who are coming off the back of an impressive display against the Magpies – which saw them take their combined tally to 12 goals this season.