By the time the sun rises over Liverpool’s iconic home ground on Thursday morning The Reds should have a much clearer idea of their Champions League future.
A win over Napoli would ensure a top of the group place for the current champions with a game in hand (an away trip to Red Bull Salzburg).
After a dour defeat to Napoli earlier in the season at The Stadio San Paolo, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be looking to avenge that solitary blot to their copybook this season.
Liverpool will be acutely aware that Carlo Ancelotti will want nothing more than to topple the Champions League holders at Anfield, and despite the chaos surrounding the Naples side recently their experienced Manager definitely has a trick or two left up his sleeve.
Liverpool: The Champions League holders will be hoping to welcome back two-time Premier League top scorer Mohammed Salah to the first team on Wednesday night, the Egyptian missed the clash with Crystal Palace with a niggling knee injury.
Two-time Champions League winner Xherdan Shaqiri could be welcomed back into the matchday squad for the clash, Shaqiri recently returned to training following a long term calf injury that has plagued him for most of the season.
It has been confirmed this week though that Joel Matip will need to undergo a second scan on his injured knee, the Cameroonian defender had hoped to be back fit after the international break earlier this month, but complications have lead to the club sending him off to get a better idea of the extent of the injury and how long he will be side-lined for.
Expect Fabinho to anchor the midfield after the Brazilian received a one match ban for The Reds’ next Premier League fixture against Brighton at home on Saturday afternoon.
Napoli: Should Carlo Ancelotti’s side be able to get a result at Anfield they will need to do it without two of their key forwards, Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne are both confirmed to be out of the game with stomach and elbow problems respectively.
In their absence Napoli may revert to a front three of star man Dries
Mertens, former Madrista Jose Callejon and new signing from PSV Hirving Lozano.
Full back Kevin Malcuit remains unavailable due to a nasty long-term injury to both his ACL and
the medial meniscus in his right knee picked up last month against Sassuolo.
Jurgen Klopp will be expected to go back to what seems to be a preferred
eleven for Champions League fixtures this season.
Alisson will start in goal behind what seems to be a settled back four
of Andrew Robertson, Virgil Van Dijk, Trent Alexander Arnold and an ever controversial, recently resurgent Dejan Lovren.
Robertson sustained an injury prior to the International break, the Scotland
captain was eased through 90 minutes at Selhurst Park on the weekend but should
Jurgen Klopp wish to avoid exacerbating the injury he may turn to James Milner
to fill in, but expect the flying Scotsman to retain his place.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may return to the starting eleven on Wednesday night.
The former Arsenal and Southampton midfielder started for Salah on the weekend and has been in Klopp’s preferred team so far this season in the Champions League, with five goals this season for club and country look for him to provide attacking impetus from midfield.
Expect to see Fabinho and one of Gini
Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, likely the latter starting alongside him.
Should Mo Salah pass a late fitness test he will without doubt return to the starting lineup to reform the lethal front three alongside back in the goals Roberto Firmino and Reds top-scorer so far this season, Sadio Mane.
Check out Paddy Allen’s Predicted XI.
- Liverpool have won both their home European games against Napoli, winning 3-1 in the Europa League back in 2010 and coming out 1-0 victors in last season’s Champions League to put them through to the knockout rounds.
- Since losing 2-0 to Napoli on matchday one, Liverpool have been unbeaten in all competitions (12W, 1D), contrastingly, with the recent cloud hanging over the club by chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis the Naples side have struggled (4W, 7D, 2L).
- The last manager to beat Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League was the man who will be in the away dugout come Wednesday night Carlo Ancelotti, the then Real Madrid boss battered Brendan Rodger’s Liverpool side 3-0 in October 2014.
If Napoli want to pull off a victory against Jurgen Klopp’s side, they will need their talismanic attacker Dries Merten’s to get back to the dynamite form he has shown across recent seasons after a tough start to his domestic campaign.
The Belgian recently overtook Diego Maradona’s tally of 115 goals for Napoli to move up to second in the Naples side’s all-time rankings, he now only has Mark Hamsik’s 121 goals to topple.
The star man from the recent fixtures versus Napoli is likely defensive man mountain Kalidou Koulibaly, the central defender has, one slick Salah movement last season aside, been mostly immovable against the Reds and it’s easy to see why Europe’s elite including title rivals Manchester City are keeping an eye on the Senegalese star for an eye watering fee of upwards of £100m.
Liverpool have been nothing but ruthless all season, grinding
out win after win with a propensity for late winners providing them with an
unbeatable aura right now akin to Manchester United in the peak of their ‘Fergie Time’ pomp.
Expect Napoli to be right up for the game to prove a point with the world watching against the holders and don’t be shocked if they nick a goal, but Liverpool’s mentality monsters and the intimidating Anfield atmosphere should be enough to drive Jurgen Klopp’s side through a very tough game.
Liverpool 3-1 Napoli