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Preview: Napoli vs. Liverpool - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Napoli vs. Liverpool - prediction, team news, lineups:ID:371577: from db_amp
Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League clash between Napoli and Liverpool, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
By | 1mo

Familiar faces await Liverpool when they begin their Champions League campaign on Tuesday with a visit to Napoli, the Serie A side who beat the Reds and almost fatally derailed the run that led all the way to the trophy last season.

The rerun of last term's group stage fixture represents an intriguing tangle between two teams who finished second in their respective top flights last season.

Less than a year after the hosts won 1-0 in Naples, the two meet as part of a group that both will expect to progress from, with a reasonably kind draw producing Red Bull Salzburg and Genk as their rivals to reach the knockout stages.


Carlo Ancelotti is a man not predisposed to looking impressed, but the Napoli coach had one less reason to crack a smile recently following a visit by builders to the Stadio San Paolo.

Napoli agreed to play both of their opening Serie A games away from home while renovation works were carried out on the changing rooms, but the coach has voiced his disapproval at the quality of the work.

Napoli have become embroiled in a curious war of words with the architects responsible for the renovation, posting a video on social media showing missing sinks and jutting electrical sockets, among other oddities.

There was plenty of non-building related drama during Napoli's hiatus from their home, taking in 14 goals across two games and leaving them on the right and wrong ends of a pair of 4-3 scorelines.

In their opening match, at Fiorentina, they fell behind early on before scoring four goals in less than half an hour to win the game, including a 67th-minute winner with the scores level at 3-3.

Their next game, at champions Juventus, was even more exciting, although not for all the reasons Ancelotti would have wanted.

Taking on the team who beat them to the title by 11 points last season, Napoli recovered from going 3-0 down after 62 minutes to score three times in 15 minutes, only for centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly to net a 92nd-minute own goal that restored Juve's lead and gave them the win.

Diminutive midfielder Dries Mertens scored in both halves as Napoli enjoyed a 2-0 win at home to Sampdoria on Saturday, lifting them to fifth in the early table, three points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Recent form: WLW


Less than five months after their last visit to Champions League opponents, when they were seen off 3-0 by Barcelona on a night when their hopes of becoming champions appeared in tatters, Liverpool will expect a more comfortable group stage experience than they endured last season.

They lost all three of their group stage games away from home, starting with that night at Napoli and proceeding to a 2-0 setback at Red Star Belgrade and a 2-1 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain.

Their home form saved them. With the exception of their opening 3-2 win over the Parisiens - a fine result in itself - Liverpool kept clean sheets in all of their Champions League matches at Anfield last season, including gaining revenge over Napoli.

Coach Jurgen Klopp has pointed out that two of his Champions League stars from last season, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, have benefited from not participating in international matches during the recent Premier League break.

Striker Salah scored five goals while Senegal's Mane scored four on Liverpool's triumphant run, and between them the pair were directly involved in 12 of the Reds' goals in Europe.

Their influence could be key as they look to help Liverpool improve a record of six defeats from their last 10 matches in Europe outside of England.

Klopp's men have lost on their last two visits to Italy but have only fallen to defeat in three of their last nine away games against Italian clubs, picking up three wins.

A 3-1 win at home to Newcastle United on Saturday, featuring a Mane double and a late Salah goal, kept Liverpool at the top of the table with a fifth straight league win and continued a superb start to the season in which they have become the only side in all four English divisions to win every match so far.

Recent form: WDWWWW

Team News

Ancelotti had to make do with a depleted forward line during Napoli's eventful start to the season, including Poland's Arkadiusz Milik, who missed both opening games.

Lorenzo Insigne, who scored the 90th-minute winner in this fixture in Italy last season, has returned to full fitness.

Fernando Llorente, part of the Tottenham squad that lost three times to Liverpool last season, joined Napoli on a free transfer in the summer after his contract at the Champions League finalists expired.

Best remembered from last season for the late goal that gave Spurs an aggregate victory on away goals over Manchester City, Llorente is yet to net for Napoli.

Liverpool's Naby Keita remains sidelined with a hip problem, although Klopp expects the midfielder to resume training soon.

The Champions League opener will likely come too soon for the Guinea regular, but Klopp says he should be back in action before Alisson Becker.

Klopp revealed that the Brazil goalkeeper is still unable to put pressure on the calf he injured while taking a goal-kick in Liverpool's first home match of the season.

Right-back Nathaniel Clyne remains Liverpool's only major long-term absentee, having sustained a knee injury during pre-season that will keep him out until next year, while Divock Origi is unlikely to feature after limping off with an ankle problem on Saturday.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejon, Ruiz Pena, Elmas; Zielinski, Lozano, Mertens

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Head To Head

Alisson's injury means that the elite keeper will not be able to repeat the kind of marvellous save he produced late on to keep Liverpool in the Champions League when they edged past Napoli at Anfield in December.

Salah scored the 34th-minute winner that night, sealing a vital three points on the fourth meeting between these clubs.

Before Napoli won in Naples, their previous encounter was in the 2010-11 Europa League group stage, when the match in Italy finished goalless.

The return game was contrastingly goal-laden and put Liverpool on a precipice again. Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the first half, only for a typically timely Steven Gerrard hat-trick in the final 15 minutes, including goals in the 88th and 89th minutes.

Neither Liverpool nor Napoli enjoyed much onward success in Europe that season, finishing first and second respectively in their group but both failing to make the quarter-finals.

We say: Napoli 1-1 Liverpool

With or without plush changing rooms, Liverpool may feel some relief that they are navigating their rendezvous with Napoli at the start of their Champions League defence.

Ancelotti and his players are aiming to win the Scudetto this season - a lofty ambition given Juventus's dominance, but one that demonstrates their confidence and the quality they can call upon.

A point apiece would suit both sides in a group which, without demeaning Red Bull and Genk, is most likely to finish with these two at the top.

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