Liverpool have only themselves to blame for heading into the final game of the Champions League group stage knowing only the right result—a 1-0 victory or winning by two if Napoli score—gets them to the knockout rounds.
Still, if you’d suggested it would take this long to decide Group C before it all kicked off back in September, nobody would have been surprised. Not when the group was drawn with Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, and Liverpool.
“I always thought this group would come down to the final round of matches,” manager Jürgen Klopp noted in tonight’s matchday programme. “There is no sense of shock or surprise we face this challenge tonight.
“It has rightly been described as probably the toughest and most competitive group in the competition this season. PSG, Napoli, and Red Star are outstandingly good teams and we are not too bad ourselves.”
It’s a difficult point to argue. PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and already have League 1 all but wrapped up. Napoli are a strong second in Serie A. And Red Star, though comparatively unheralded, have their own rich history.
Still, even if it’s maybe not a surprise to see the group go down to the final round, Liverpool have underperformed, losing all three of their road games and in particular playing at their best against both Napoli and Red Star.
There’s a feeling that, as good as their group opponents are, Liverpool have wasted their chances. But they’re here, now, and they can make it so that those mistakes don’t matter by taking their chance, at Anfield, and beating Napoli.
“We face the situation we do because our performances and results away from home have not been to the high standards we hold ourselves to,” Klopp added. “If we earn the right to progress clearly it is something we will look to address.
“But we should also not ignore the fact that our future in the competition remains in our own hands, because we have been really good at Anfield. We all know what we have to do to qualify for the knockout stages.
“We have a job to do—a game to win—and if we give our best I think we have a real opportunity. It’s about this game.”