MATCH CENTRE

Preview: Napoli vs Liverpool

Liverpool travel to Italy sitting pretty atop their Champions League group.

Having already beaten Paris Saint-Germain last month, the Reds will be confident that they can clinch another result against Napoli. And on the back of a comeback draw against Chelsea, the feel good factor in the Reds camp is as strong as ever. Even though the Italian side drew their opening game with Red Star Belgrade, they will be battling to make it a tough night for the Reds. In the buildup to the game between two historical clubs, let us examine the key pointers.

Battle Of Similarities

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Wednesday night’s battle will pit two clubs with huge histories against each other. Formed in 1926 and the seventh-most decorated Italian team, Napoli have some history about them. And coming from another working class city, the Italian club are a people’s club like their English counterparts. That is perhaps why the Serie A club enjoyed such fanatical support from the Napolitans, one that could rival what the Kopites have to offer. The similarities between the two clubs don’t just end there. Napoli play a high press that was instilled by their former coach Sarri, even if he’s since left the club for Chelsea. That kind of play style isn’t too dissimilar to Liverpool’s, as we would’ve found out recently against Sarri’s Chelsea. Which is why Liverpool have to be at their best if they wish to overcome a spirited Napoli team.

That said, there are also differences between the teams, chiefly in the terms of defending. Napoli, for all their strengths, aren’t a side with a great defensive structure. This means they are unable to sit back and absorb pressure when their opponents have possession. That’s in contrast with Liverpool, who’ve massively upgraded their defence to enable themselves to weather the storm. Under Klopp’s tutelage, the Merseysiders have perfected the art of hitting teams on the break, making them one of the most feared counterattacking sides in Europe. Hence, to stand a good chance of winning, Liverpool have to be on the front foot. Pinning their opponents back might just prove to be the best, if not familiar, game plan.

Relying On Alisson

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In the second half of the game on Saturday, with Chelsea leading 1-0, the ball was played into the path of Hazard. Having acres of space in front of him, the Belgian would’ve fancied his chances in scoring his second. Except for the fact that he didn’t count on our Brazilian keeper. Rushing out from his goal-line, Brazil’s No.1 made himself big to deny the Belgian. Had it not been for that save, and several others, the Reds would’ve certainly lost the game. By keeping us in the contest, Alisson was the crucial springboard for our late equalizer. Being an ex-Roma man, Alisson has the experience of playing at the Stadio San Paolo. Seven months ago, he played a crucial role in Roma’s 4-2 win.

Recounting that match, Alisson said: “They had 24 attempts on goal, 13 on target. I made 11 saves and conceded two goals.”

Eleven saves and 3 points. It’s plain for everyone to see how important Alisson was to his team then, and that’s no different with Liverpool.  If the Reds were to achieve victory in Italy, something tells me that Alisson will yet again play a big part in it.

Lookout For Insigne

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His name is well-known across Europe and is not hard to see why. Blessed with quick feet and great technique, he’s easily Napoli’s biggest threat. And while his finishing has been criticized in the past, the Italian has already put 5 goals to his name this season. That makes him one of Napoli’s main sources of goals, and the guy Liverpool have to watch out for.

Besides the goal threat he provides, Insigne is happy to create for his teammates. That’s backed up by his 11 assists in the Serie A last season, and with manager Carlo Ancelotti deploying a 4-4-2 formation and moving him into a more central role, Insigne is able to exert more influence on the team. With an eye for goal and a killer pass, Liverpool have to be extremely wary of Insigne. Stopping him might go a long way to achieving victory.

Blink, however, and the Italians may punish the Reds.

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