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10 key things to know ahead of Napoli vs. Liverpool

Liverpool begin their Champions League campaign against an old foe on Wednesday night, with an opportunity to turn their fortunes around at Napoli.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side are struggling in the Premier League at present, so here’s hoping a change of scene can spark them into life.

Liverpool make the tough trip to Napoli on Wednesday, looking to make a flying start to the group stage and find some much-needed rhythm in the process.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of the game.

 

1. Napoli have made a strong start

NAPLES, ITALY - Tuesday, September 17, 2019: SSC Napoli's Fernando Llorente and Giovanni Di Lorenzo applaud the supporters after the UEFA Champions League Group E match between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC at the Studio San Paolo. Napoli won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Napoli started the season as one of the contenders to win the Serie A title – and the early evidence suggests they will be right in the mix come May.

Luciano Spalletti’s side have won three and drawn two in their opening five games, including a 5-2 victory away to Verona, and sit second in the table behind Atalanta.

The Italian giants may have lost defensive colossus Kalidou Koulibaly to Chelsea, but they don’t appear to be missing him.

Liverpool will be their toughest opponent of the season to date, though, so this may gauge where they stand among Europe’s elite.

 

2. Spalletti impressing in charge

ST. LOUIS, USA - Monday, August 1, 2016: AS Roma's head coach Luciano Spalletti before a pre-season friendly game against Liverpool on day twelve of the club's USA Pre-season Tour at the Busch Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In Spalletti, Napoli have a hugely experienced manager who has genuine pedigree after so many years at the top of Italian football.

The 63-year-old has already enjoyed spells at Roma and Inter Milan, winning back-to-back Coppa Italias with the former, and he is now looking to guide his current club to a first league title since 1990.

Jurgen Klopp has only come up against Spalletti once in his managerial career – a 4-2 win during their respective Borussia Dortmund and Zenit Saint Petersburg days.

 

3. Predicted Napoli XI

MUNICH, GERMANY - Tuesday, August 1, 2017: SSC Napoli's Piotr Zielinski during the Audi Cup 2017 match between Club S.S.C. Napoli and AtlÈtico de Madrid at the Allianz Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In terms of notable players, a few individuals stand out for Napoli ahead of the game.

Piotr Zielinski has been linked with a move to Liverpool numerous times during the Klopp era – including in 2016, when Gini Wijnaldum ended up joining instead.

The Pole is expected to start in Napoli’s midfield alongside former Fulham man Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

In attack, Victor Osimhen is the star man, scoring 30 goals in 67 appearances, but he is a fitness doubt going into the match.

Winger Hirving Lozano is available despite a nasty clash of heads in the weekend win away to Lazio, but Diego Demme is unavailable.

Predicted Napoli XI: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Kim, Rrahmani, Rui; Zielinski, Zambo Anguissa, Lobotka; Lozano, Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen

 

4. Who’s missing for Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, August 31, 2022: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson goes down with an injury during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool still have a number of injury concerns, with Ibrahima Konate, Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones the most high-profile absentees.

On the plus side, Thiago returned to full training on Monday, acting as a huge boost, while Joel Matip is also fully fit again.

Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are long-term absentees – both have been left out of Liverpool’s 24-man squad for the group stage – while Caoimhin Kelleher is also still absent.

Fabio Carvalho went off injured at half-time against Everton and didn’t train on Tuesday, meaning he is a big doubt.

Liverpool squad in training on Tuesday

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 6, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 1 game between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Mrozek

Defenders: Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Tsimikas, Mabaya

Midfielders: Fabinho, Thiago, Arthur, Elliott, Milner, Bajcetic

Forwards: Salah, Diaz, Nunez, Firmino, Jota, Frauendorf

 

5. Possible Reds lineup

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 6, 2022: Liverpool's Arthur Melo during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 1 game between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It will be interesting to see if Klopp hands Arthur his Liverpool debut at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, with the Brazilian now more in tune with his team-mates.

He may start on the substitutes’ bench, but Harvey Elliott could arguably do with a rest and Thiago may not be risked so soon.

Speaking of fatigue, Trent Alexander-Arnold might be left out to recharge the batteries, meaning Joe Gomez possibly switches to right-back and Matip comes in.

Andy Robertson should return in place of Kostas Tsimikas, while Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota will both be pushing for starts.

Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Milner, Arthur; Salah, Jota, Nunez

 

6. Stadio Diego Armando Maradona

NAPLES, ITALY - Tuesday, September 17, 2019: SSC Napoli supporters during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC at the Studio San Paolo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Since Liverpool last made the trip to Naples, the stadium has changed its name.

In 2020, Napoli’s home ground was no longer known as Stadio San Paolo, instead switching to Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

That is, of course, in memory of the legendary Diego Maradona, who is not only one of the greatest players of all time, but also a superstar in Naples to this day.

The Argentine’s passing in November 2020 led to the club deciding to name the stadium in his honour, in what was a touching, and deserved, gesture.

It was Maradona who almost single-handedly inspired Napoli to Serie A glory in 1987, as well as winning the league three years later.

 

7. Struggles in Naples

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum looks dejected as Napoli score an injury time winning goal during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. Napoli won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This Liverpool team have dominated most of their opponents in the last four years, with few capable of getting the better of them.

Napoli have bucked that trend, however, beating them in the Champions League group stage in both 2018/19 (1-0) and 2019/20 (2-0), as well as drawing 1-1 at Anfield.

An intimidating place to visit, the Reds have underperformed badly in Naples, offering little attacking thrust, and the hope is that things are different this time around.

Liverpool’s current attacking form isn’t exactly reassuring!

 

8. Did you know?

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, October 19, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first goal, scoring in his ninth consecutive game, during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 3 game between Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mohamed Salah is second in Liverpool’s list of all-time goalscorers in Europe, with his tally of 34 only bettered by Steven Gerrard (41).

To put his brilliance into perspective, the 30-year-old has the best games-per-goal ratio of the top 25 on the list.

Salah averages a goal every 1.74 matches for Liverpool in Europe – Gerrard’s ratio was one every 3.17 – with Roger Hunt (1.82) the closest to matching him.

The Egyptian hasn’t hit top form yet this season, but Wednesday would be an ideal time to see him spark back him into life.

 

9. Spanish referee takes charge

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 25, 2020: Referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and Atalanta BC at Anfield. Atalanta won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Carlos del Cerro Grande has been confirmed as the referee for Wednesday’s game.

This will be the third Liverpool match that the Spaniard has taken charge of in the Champions League, with the Reds yet to win under his watch.

The first was a 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta in 2020/21, while the second was a 1-1 draw with Napoli at Anfield the previous season.

There’s a first for everything…

 

10. Follow the match with TIA

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 2: A view of the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Group Stage match ball during the UEFA Club Competitions 2022/23 Match Balls Shoot at the UEFA Headquarters, The House of the European Football, on August 2, 2022, in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by UEFA). General. Ball

Napoli vs. Liverpool is live on BT Sport 2 from 7pm (BST), with kickoff at 8pm.

Meanwhile, Sam Millne will be in charge of This Is Anfield’s matchday live blog, keeping you company from 7.15pm.

Come on you Reds!

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