Liverpool have an excellent chance to make a huge step towards Champions League last 16 qualification on Wednesday night when they travel to Naples to face Serie A’s Napoli.
Roberto Firmino struck a late winner against Paris Saint Germain to earn the Reds a 3-2 win at Anfield that took them to the summit of Group C following Gli Azzurri’s 0-0 stalemate with Red Star Belgrade.
An away win at the Stadio San Paolo would keep Liverpool on course for the knockout stages as they look to go one better than last year when they reached the 2018 final in Kiev.
The last time these two European heavyweights met was in the Europa League back in the 2010/11 season when the Reds held Napoli to a goalless draw away before Steven Gerrard famously scored an Anfield hat-trick to beat the Serie A outfit 3-1.
The most interesting battle will certainly be between Liverpool’s target man Firmino and Napoli’s defensive giant Kalidou Koulibaly.
The Senegalese international has been an outstanding comrade for his domestic side following his move in 2014. The 27-year-old has established himself as one of Europe’s top centre-backs and it will be interesting to see how the defender fairs against one of last season’s top-scorers in the competition.
It will also be an opportunity for Koulibaly to face-off against his International compatriot Sadio Mane who will be looking to add to his impressive ten goals he fired in the Champions League last campaign.
An interesting selection for Klopp could see him debating whether his star man Mohamed Salah is up for the occasion. No one would have even dreamed of dropping Salah last season, but his German coach took the forward off early against Chelsea this weekend with Liverpool still chasing the game at 1-0 down.
Another substitute, Daniel Sturridge, scored one of the goals of the season with a stunning equaliser, and Klopp may be tempted to take Salah out of the line of fire and hand Sturridge a chance after his recent goalscoring run.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson started against Chelsea at the weekend, suggesting that Naby Keita could be rotated into the midfield three.
Long-term absentee Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) will most certainly be out, whilst Adam Lallana (groin) and Divock Origi (ankle) remain unavailable for the Reds.
Napoli: Ospina; Hysaj, Albiol, Kouliably, Rui; Fabian, Zielinski, Hamsik; Cellejon, Mertens, Insigne
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Keita, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Klopp’s Napoli analysis: “It will be interesting”
The former Borrusia Dortmund boss delivered an assessment of Liverpool’s opponents, reflected on his previous experience at the venue and explained why the pre-season clash between the teams will have no influence on this match.
Speaking to LFCTV he said “They are a good team in a good moment. Even the last game was not bad against Juventus. They are in good shape, second in the league, impressive results.
“We played against [Maurizio] Sarri and his new team on Saturday and now we play against his old team, so it will be interesting.
“It’s not exactly the same anymore because they changed style and lost Jorginho, but they’re very quick up front, have good footballers, a good counter-press, a good counter… it will be interesting."