Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti on the touchline during the UEFA Europa League, Group C match at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples. Picture date: Thursday December 9, 2021.

Napoli manager calls for “power of the Maradona” against Liverpool

Napoli head coach Luciano Spalletti expects his side to play a “blinder” against Liverpool in a Champions League opener where he says the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona roar will be heard back at Anfield.

Just over three months of from their narrow loss in the Stade de France final to Real Madrid, Jurgen Klopp’s men return to continental action in Wednesday’s Group A opener in southern Italy.

Liverpool are favourites to top the pool and kick-off their Champions League quest with arguably their toughest test.

“Players dream of playing in this competition all their lives,” said Napoli coach Spalletti, whose side won 2-1 at Lazio on Saturday.

“The standard is really high and games can be won or lost in a single passage of play. You’ve got to be so switched on against teams such as Liverpool.

“You can prepare as thoroughly as possible but when you’re up against real champions, you know that they’re capable of coming up with something out of the blue.

“That being said, we’ve got some top-drawer players and I’m convinced that the lads will play a blinder tomorrow, carrying on from where they left off against Lazio.

“I’ll say it again, this group of players can garner even more affection from the Maradona this campaign.”

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)

Spalletti vowed to “play the Napoli way, aiming to win” on Wednesday, but knows his team faces an almighty battle against a side he admires.

“It’s an honour to be on opposite sides to Klopp,” he said. “There’s nobody quite like him and his playing philosophy sets his team apart in world football. I’ll try to read what he’s trying to ask of his team.”

Spalletti hopes star striker Victor Osimhen will pass a fitness test on the morning of the match, having followed a “custom schedule” on the eve of the game due to a muscle complaint.

The Nigeria international’s availability would be a huge boost to a side who will be back to the hilt at the cavernous, creaking Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

“We’re aware of how much power the Maradona can give us,” Spalletti added.

“I’m convinced that the noise generated by the fans tomorrow will be heard as far away as Anfield.

“The fans’ enthusiasm can dampen the tension and their support will help us so much.”