Once again, the last group stage night at Anfield, Liverpool could lock their place into the knockout rounds against group stage rivals Napoli. Not only is first place on the line, but revenge as well. Napoli are currently the only team to best the Champions of Europe since the beginning of the regular season. Let’s jump right into it and see how this thing’s going to play out!
In Naples, the Reds struggled to get going for the second straight year. It was not for lack of effort however, the stat sheet looked to be almost dead even across the board. Alex Meret and Adrian each made some amazing saves to keep their respective sides level. It wasn’t until Jose Callejon threw himself into Andy Robertson for a very, very, VERY questionable penalty. One which Dries Mertens buried into the lower left corner, blowing through the outstretched hand of Adrian. Into stoppage time, Llorente caught the backline in chaos to poach the nail in Liverpool’s coffin. Things are different at Anfield though. The fans are unbearable, the weather is shit, and our identity is intensity. They will surely find out why “This Means More” at Liverpool.
Napoli will be without Lorenzo Insigne as he did not travel to England. This void will most likely be filled by Fernando Llorente who has already had some luck against the Reds. Without Insigne the attack will be lead by their goal machine Mertens and Champions League chance creator (15 chances created in UCL this season) Jose Callejon. While the Italian club’s attack is most certainly no joke, let’s not forget about arguably their best player, Kalidou Koulibaly. Against the Reds in Naples, I thought he was brilliant. Even with a great performance from him, it still took a few world class saves from Alex Meret to keep Liverpool off the scoresheet. I look for Napoli to come out firing and try to get on top early. They surely haven’t forgotten how they missed the knockout rounds last year.
Our mighty Reds have been given a boost going into this match as Klopp stated in the Crystal Palace post game presser that Mo Salah will be fit for the deciding match in the race for first place in group E. I fully expect Lovren to start due to Matip still rehabbing his knee. The big mystery will once again be Andy Robertson. After the match Saturday, he hinted that he has merely been playing through the pain. At some point I know the staff will rest him, but I don’t think it will be this week. If he does miss the match, Liverpool’s ultimate utility man James Milner will be expected to fill the role. Other than Left Back, I don’t see any possible changes to the lineup from Klopp’s trusted 11. This squad has been an enigma to predict how they will play each game. Will they open it up and run the opponents into the ground? Will they play a scrappy, cagey, grind them down type of match? I believe Napoli will come out swinging which will open themselves up to one of the best counter attacks the world has ever seen. I look for Liverpool to press hard and heavy to open things up and take an early lead.
I have zero hard predictions for this game. I know it will be exciting and I trust our boys to go out there and show why Anfield is a fortress. It’s a privilege just to visit Anfield. Taking that L is just part of the tour.