It’s the most important game of the season thus far. Liverpool’s Champions League Tate rest on this matchup with a strong Napoli side. The Anfield Talk’s Logan (@kidddlogan) previews the matchup and the scenarios in which need to happen in order for Liverpool to progress into the knockout stages of the tournament.
Who: Liverpool vs. Napoli
When: Tuesday, December 11
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Time: 20:00 GMT, 3:00 EST
TV: BT Sport 2 (UK), Bleacher Report Live (US)
It all comes down to this. Another European night that carries extreme significance makes it way to Anfield. Liverpool’s fate rests in their own hands. A 1-0 win and they progress. A win by at least two goals, they progress. Any other result that sees the Reds win, will not see them into the last 16 (a 3-2 win would not qualify the Reds for the last 16).
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It’s a very tricky situation for Jurgen Klopp as the Reds have to ensure that they win, but he does not want to put out a lineup that could risk conceding a number of goals. Flashbacks of the 2004/05 Champions League campaign are coming back as Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool were in the same situation which saw them come back from a 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 and advance to the last 16. More of the same is need tonight to make sure that the Reds can continue to mark their dominance in Europe.
Alisson and the back four will be busy trying to limit Napoli and their chances in front of goal. Since Joe Gomez is out, it will most likely be Dejan Lovren slotting in for him. Every single one of the defenders and ‘keeper have to make sure that they are good on their feet and get rid of any loose balls that may bounce around in the box. They will also be the starting points for most of the attacks, so they need to get the ball up the pitch very quickly to try and catch the Napoli defenders out.
The game tonight will be decided by how well the Liverpool midfield is able to control the flow of the game and how influential they are in the attack. The rumoured midfield trio coming from the always trusted Paul Joyce, has Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Gini Wijnaldum in the centre of the park. If that is true, Liverpool will be in big trouble. Henderson cannot push the game’s tempo and does not like to get the ball up the pitch. Fabinho, on the other hand, is the perfect suitor for this type of game as he is always looking to get the ball up the pitch and to push the tempo in Liverpool’s favour. Whoever gets the nod in the centre of the park needs to have the game of their lives to ensure that the Reds can make their way to the last 16.
The form of the front three is hitting full stride as the busiest time of the season has hit full swing. Mo Salah has been scoring left and right, Bobby Firmino has been back to his old ways, and Sadio Mane has been terrorising the defences with his impressive runs. Each of them have to be clinical in front of goal and have to interchanging their runs to confuse the stingy Napoli defence. Klopp will most likely let the front three have a go, just like they did in the first leg of the Roma game last season and we all know how that turned out, so we’d love for a repeat tonight.
Everyone is available for selection tonight, with the exception of Joe Gomez.
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Carlos Ancelloti knows how to win big games. He has proved it over his time as being the manager of Bayern, A.C. Milan, and Real Madrid. He will try to inspire his Napoli squad to overcome the sold out Anfield, but he knows how hard it is to play at such a fortress. Napoli will definitely be the enemies tonight as Dries Mertens made some comments about the “This is Anfield” sign in the tunnel. As history shows, when you make comments about Liverpool, you pay with a bad result. Nevertheless, Napoli will be looking to sit back and prevent the Reds from scoring or creating any chances.
David Ospina and the Napoli defence led by Kalidou Koulibaly, will be on shut down mode against the Reds. They will be very compact and limiting the amount of space that the Liverpool attackers will have. Don’t be surprised if they become physical just like Sergio Ramos did during the final last May, just to try and get the Anfield faithful even more angrier than they already are after Mertens’ comments.
The Napoli midfield will be sitting very deep all game long until they are forced to come out and chase the game. Their main priority will be to slow down the flow of the game and to frustrate the Liverpool midfield and attack. They want to make sure that service into the forwards is very difficult and to spring the counterattack if the opportunity presents itself.
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Lorenzo Insigne and Mertens will be leading the charge for the Napoli attack. The will be pestering the Liverpool defence to try and pressure them into making careless mistakes and to catch Liverpool out on the counter. Mertens will be getting a very warm welcome if that is what you would like to call it after his comments earlier in the week. Don’t be surprised if they try to bait the referee into some calls, just like PSG did against Liverpool the last time out.
Napoli Team News
Simone Verdi and Vlad Ciriches are not available for selection for the visitors from Naples.
The last time that these two sides met was in Naples which saw the hosts snatch a late goal after a lackluster performance from the Reds.
I think that this game will be very similar to that of the first leg of the Roma series last season and I think that the Reds will come out victorious and progress to the last 16 with a scoreline of 4-1.
If you want to see how my colleague Ian (@ianyoungkop) thinks the Reds will lineup tonight, click here.
I want to hear your predictions for tonights game, so tweet me @kidddlogan to let me know what you think!