One of the most awaited football competitions has returned – get ready football fans, the Champions League season is back! The sleepless nights, frenzied atmosphere, heart throbbing action, and whatnot, over the years the Elite European Club Competition has produced enough memories to maintain its hype up to this day. And as the group stage matches kick-off this week, we will turn our attention to two of the fierce teams of the competition this season who will be going head-to-head against each other on Wednesday – Liverpool and Napoli.
Group A might be hoarding some of the dark horses of the competition this season with Rangers, Ajax, Napoli and of course Liverpool having the abilities to cause major upsets. All of these 4 sides will be in action against each other on Wednesday, with Ajax & Rangers squaring off against each other earlier that day before we finally get to see one of the most anticipated clashes from the 1st Matchday of the new UCL campaign.
Liverpool and Napoli will be squaring off against each other for the 3rd time in the last 5 UCL seasons in the Group stage, on Wednesday. Another startling fact to note is that the Italians have not lost against the Reds in any of those 2 previous encounters taking place in the city of Naples.
When & Where?
Venue: Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Day & Date: Wednesday, 7th September 2022.
Time: 8 pm BST.
The Last Time Out
The last time when these 2 sides met each other, it was in the group stage at Anfield (28th November 2019). Napoli’s coach at the time, Carlo Ancelotti, deployed a perfect plan to hit the hosts where they were the most vulnerable during that campaign- ATTACK! Scoring goals seemed to be a problem for Klopp’s side in the 2019/20 UCL campaign and the Italians needed at least a draw here to have a chance in the sixth group stage game to qualify for the knockout stage. And the match was a thriller!
Both sides had their moments, and chances, while just converting 1 each to end the game as a 1-1 draw. That game was a spectacle for all the English fans as to what exactly you can expect from a pure Italian side- a defensive masterclass… And when they meet each other on Wednesday, don’t expect anything less from this Napoli side as they are looking even more fierce than ever.
A statement UCL campaign from Spalletti and Napoli?
It is safe to say that Napoli are no longer the underdogs, considering their high-beat domestic run that has seen the Parthenopeans sit 2nd in the Serie a table with 11 points after just 5 games. Under Luciano Spalletti the Blues from Italy are believed to be having their title charge, and many supporters are hoping that this could be the year that the Scudetto comes to Naples. But the consistency should be there, as it has been observed in the past that the Napoli sides are very sensitive to losing focus and hence they tend to lose confidence.
With their UCL campaign beginning on Wednesday and that too against a cold opponent in Liverpool, they could set higher standards this season with a victory in front of their fans. Not just that, Spalletti was under a lot of radar when he was being handed the Napoli job. But so far in the domestic season, it seems the changes that the Italian has brought into the side have massively paid off and with a similar sort of performance in the “Europe’s Elite Club Competition” would only bring his team in the spotlight.
Adding on to Napoli’s overall success so far in the season, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia- the Georgian Prodigy- is surely the cherry on top. With 4 goals and an assist in 5 games, the 21-year-old has sunk the hearts of many fans while being Napoli’s poster boy. Kvara is the ace in Spalletti’s scheme of things so far this season, and he sure will remain as one even in the European competition as the Italian Blues try to cement their stronghold position to qualify for the knockout stages right from the first group game.
The Liverpool squad might need a confidence boost if they want to win against Napoli!
The Reds’ start to the 2022/23 campaign has been shambolic or well below their standards- under Jurgen Klopp. Kopites around the world seem to be losing faith in the system, with many going from “We Believe in Klopp” to “Time’s up for Klopp” or “We don’t know anymore”. To be fair to them it is not their fault because a social media page released a stat regarding Klopp managing his previous teams in his 7th campaign incharge as a manager. And trust me, as a Liverpool fan myself even I was taken aback.
Jurgen Klopp left Mainz in the 7th season incharge when they got relegated and he could not get them back up. Dortmund finished 7th in the German’s 7th season incharge and he left, and now this is his 7th season at Liverpool where the club has had the worst start to a season under him. But having said that there are much deeper problems that seem to be going on in the club. With the kind of start the Reds have had- injuries, losses, dropping points- it is visibly a repeat of the 2020/21 season…
Moreover, the German’s tactics look to have changed this season. Up until now, it just seems unclear, because for the past 3-4 seasons we are used to witnessing a Liverpool system in which Salah was the key guy, and the Egyptian was seen driving the attack from the wing. But it has not been the case, so far in the season and Salah just seems devoid up front. Meanwhile, the midfield problem seems to be never-ending this season- a draw against Everton in the Premier League was just another spectacle to the lapse the Reds are having in the middle of the pitch.
Youngsters Elliott and Fabio Carvalho have literally held their nerves whenever they have been asked to step up in the absence of some of the bigger names. But even these 2 cannot do much by themselves, at the end of the day they are only developing youngsters. But the addition of the Brazilian creative midfielder Arthur Melo should add flair in that midfield with Thiago reportedly having returned from his injury as well. This should come as a sigh of relief to Klopp and co. but only if they come away with their first win against Napoli on their home turf!
There is only one bit of bitter news for Spalletti’s side – Hirving Lozano might miss the clash against The Reds on Wednesday, due to an injury he suffered in the win against Lazio on the weekend.
To replace the Mexican, Politano might get a shout up front alongside Osimhen and Kvara. But he might face competition for a spot in the playing XI from the up-and-coming Raspadori, adding some thinking boots for Spalletti and his men.
Unlike their opponents, the Reds have their own series of issues to address with. Starting with the injuries, Oxlade Chamberlain, Keita, Konate and Henderson still remain out. While Diogo Jota, Thiago and Curtis Jones have recovered and will be in contention for a spot in the team on Wednesday.
Now, the worrying issue is the form of players like Van Dijk, Trent and Salah mainly as the trio have not had the best individual starts to their campaigns as well. And considering their position in the team, Klopp might not look to bench them so it is left up to the players to gain momentum.
As things stand, either Melo or Milner could start in the midfield with Fabinho and Elliott.
Napoli predicted lineup vs Liverpool: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Kim, Rrahmani, Rui; Zielinski, Zambo Anguissa, Lobotka; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia.
Liverpool predicted lineup vs Napoli: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Elliott, Fabinho, Arthur; Salah, Nunez, Diaz.