NAPOLI VS LIVERPOOL: PREVIEW
Liverpool kickstart their Champions League campaign tomorrow night as they aim to go one better than last season. They travel to Naples to take on Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli outfit (8pm BST). Here’s a preview of the game.
It’s been a slow start to the season for Jürgen Klopp’s side so far. They’ve managed just 9 points from a possible 18 in the Premier League as they struggle due to a combination of factors.
Is there a hangover from last season? That assertion has been played down by the manager but it’s impossible to ignore the evidence at hand when Liverpool are being outrun by every single opposition they’ve faced this campaign.
The Reds went all the way in every competition last season, with eight outfielders making 47 appearances or more across the campaign. That’s without mentioning their exploits for their countries, especially in post-season internationals.
Of the eight outfielders, six have struggled to hit the levels expected of them this season (with Jota and Mané being the other two). That can be no coincidence as Trent, Robertson, Van Dijk, Fabinho, Henderson and Salah have all had a tough time of it so far.
Another factor that can’t be discounted when dissecting the struggles so far is the sheer number of injuries, especially in midfield. When an injury crisis hits a midfield that was already in dire need of reinforcements, you’re left exposed.
The loss of Thiago, Keita, Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain took its toll on the side as 36 year old James Milner was pressed into action. As brilliant a professional as the veteran is, he’s no longer a viable first choice pick in midfield.
Midfield woes aside, we are also witnessing an evolution of the style we’ve become accustomed to under Jürgen Klopp. The integration of Darwin Nunez is understandably taking time. The Uruguayan is a spearhead rather than a false nine.
This, coupled with the continued adaptation of Luis Diaz, and what seems like a new playmaking role for Mo Salah can also explain the slow start. This is a side still trying to find symphony after a few tweaks to its orchestra.
The Reds have to find something resembling their best selves tomorrow night as Napoli are a dangerous side. The Neopolitans are unbeaten in the Serie A so far and sit second, two points off top spot. They come into this clash off the back of an impressive victory away to Lazio.
It was a summer of transition for Spalletti’s side, with a host of key players departing. Koulibaly, Manolas, Fabian Ruiz, Insigne, Mertens and Ounas all sought pastures a, but to the club’s credit they’ve recruited well.
Zambo-Anguissa’s loan move was made permanent as part of a recruitment drive that brought in nine new faces. Most impressive of these have been centre back Min-Jae Kim and Georgian sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Spalletti’s side continue to carry a huge threat going forward despite the absence of long time skipper Lorenzo Insigne and record goalscorer Dries Mertens. Their tally of 12 goals is the most any side has scored in Italy this season.
It promises to be a good game of football between two sides who approach the game with attacking intent. With Ajax hosting Rangers in the other group game, the Reds will know the importance of avoiding defeat tomorrow night.
Napoli are in decent nick at the minute and remain unbeaten in their last ten home games. They have been a bit of a thorn in Jürgen Klopp’s side over recent years.
There’s been four meetings since the German took over, with the Reds winning just once (thanks to a huge Alisson save in injury time). Both trips to the Diego Armando Maradona stadium have ended in defeat (1-0 in 2018 and 2-0 in 2019).
The Reds’ injury woes seem to be easing. Thiago Alcantara is back in training and is set to travel with the squad to Italy. Diogo Jota marked his return to action with a brief cameo off the bench in the Merseyside derby. Joel Matip is also available.
As is Arthur Melo who is in contention after being kept to a watching brief on Saturday. Jordan Henderson is ruled out with a hamstring injury which will keep keep him sidelined for three weeks, whilst Fabio Carvalho and Curtis Jones are doubts as they struggle with knocks.
For Napoli, Diego Demme is ruled out with a foot injury, whilst talismanic striker Victor Osimhen is reportedly struggling with a muscle strain. He trained on his own today and will be assessed ahead of the game.
The Brazilian is in line for his Liverpool debut tomorrow night. It’s in ideal circumstances as he’s familiar with Italian opposition. If Arthur can settle quickly, the midfield could be about to get a real injection of quality.
The 21 year old has taken the Serie A by storm. He’s netted 4 goals and provided 1 assist in 5 appearances so far. He was taken off early at the weekend ahead of this fixture and will look to test Alexander-Arnold with his pace, trickery and deadly finishing.
Bobby is undergoing a bit of a renaissance in the last few weeks. He’s carried on the momentum from his dazzling display against Bournemouth, netting against Newcastle before being denied by a string of impressive saves in the derby.
He came on in the number ten role as the manager switched to a 4-2-3-1 system. That could be key to getting the best out of the forward line, Darwin Nunez in particular.
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