Liverpool vs Napoli
| Tuesday, December 11th |
Champions League | Anfield
8PM BST / 3PM EST
Liverpool received a big boost this weekend, as the Merseysiders went top of the Premier League table after their 4-0 thumping of Bournemouth was followed up by Chelsea beating Manchester City. There is no time to savour the moment for the Reds, however, as they enter the final round of the Champions League group stage needing to win, either 1-0 or by two clear goals, against the side that handed them their first loss of the season back in October.
The Partenopei aren’t doing too badly themselves, coming off their own 4-0 win at the weekend, and sitting in second place in the Serie A, eight points behind a domestically peerless Juventus side. Juve were also the team that last defeated Napoli, way back in September, and Ancelotti’s men have now gone 12 games without a loss in all competitions.
Lorenzo Insigne has — predictably — begun to tail off a little following his hot start to the season, but absent the Italian’s goals, Dries Mertens, Fabián Ruiz and Arkadiusz Milik have picked up the slack, and 16 goals from their last six matches indicates the Neopolitans are not at all struggling to put the ball in the back of the net.
Sporting a clean bill of health, and having rested some key players at the weekend, Napoli look set to offer the Reds the sternest possible test on Tuesday.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Keïta; Salah, Firmino, Mané
While a new long-term contract is now in the bag, the short-term Joe Gomez situation remains an issue, and the England international will continue his rehabilitation through the holiday schedule. With Dejan Lovren still questionable due to concussion-like symptoms, that means a return to the starting XI for Joël Matip, who, despite seemingly sitting fourth in the depth chart, has looked more than capable as a partner to Virgil van Dijk in the limited outings the two have shared.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was rested at the weekend and should return, while his deputy James Milner could be reinstated into midfield. Jordan Henderson looks set to captain the side, while Naby Keïta — who seems to have settled into his role — should make a third consecutive start.
Up top, the deadly front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will be needed, and with five days of recovery before the Reds host Manchester United, there is no reason to limit their involvement in this must-win contest.
The stakes are simple, if not easy; the Reds must win 1-0 or by two clear goals to continue their Champions League campaign, or slum it on Thursdays in the Europa League for the rest of the season. With the backing of what should be a Kop on top form, it is time for Klopp’s men to deliver.
What the Managers Said
Klopp: “The group is a hard one. That was clear when we got the draw. Now we have the chance to go through and that is pretty special after the campaign we played so far. Now we have to create a special atmosphere with the way we play and we have to use it as well.”
Ancelotti “I have lots of memories of Anfield and my last one is a good one because I won the title there with Chelsea. We’ll go there and play our usual game. It would be counter productive to try and park the bus. Besides anything else, that’s not how we play.”
The Officials (SVN)
Referee: Damir Skomina
Assistants: Jure Praprotnik, Robert Vukan
Fourth official: Tomaž Klančnik
Additional assistants: Slavko Vinčić, Matej Jug
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.