Napoli host current European Champions Liverpool in Champions League Group E. Last season’s winners will want their defence of the title to get off to a winning start, while Napoli will be hoping to take advantage of this game being at home in what could be a tough night for both teams.
Napoli Host Champions League Holders Liverpool
Competition: UEFA Champions League Group E
Date: 17th September
Time: 8pm GMT
Venue: San Paolo
How They Qualified
Napoli qualified for this season’s Champions League with an impressive second-place finish in Serie A last season. Juventus won the league by 11 points, however, Napoli were comfortable in second place, ending the campaign ten points ahead of third place.
Reigning champions Liverpool defeated Tottenham Hotspur in last season’s final. Along the way they won a thrilling two-legged game against Barcelona. Trailing 3-0 from the first leg, the Reds won 4-0 at Anfield to progress. Liverpool finished second behind Manchester City in the league last season. They amassed 97 points, the highest number of points for a second-place team.
Last Season in the Champions League
Napoli and Liverpool faced each other at the group stage last season. The Italians won the home game 1-0 while Liverpool won the return game by the same score. Napoli lost out to Liverpool in qualifying for the next round by two points, with Jurgen Klopp’s side qualifying second behind Paris Saint-Germain. Napoli finished third and qualified for the Europa League, where they reached the quarter-finals and were knocked out by Arsenal.
Liverpool defeated Tottenham 2-0 in the final. A Mo Salah penalty after just 106 seconds got the Reds off to a perfect start. Divock Origi scored late in the second half to secure Liverpool’s sixth European Cup. It was also Jürgen Klopp’s first trophy with the club.
Champions League History
The Champions League has not been the kindest to Napoli. They have reached the last 16 just twice. With a more favourable group, Napoli will be hoping to progress past the group stage along with group favourites Liverpool.
Liverpool have won the competition six times. Their first coming in 1977, the latest 2019. The Reds have also been runners-up on three occasions. They currently stand third in the list of most victories. Real Madrid lead the way with 13, followed by AC Milan on seven, one ahead of Liverpool.
Napoli are currently in fifth place in Serie A after three games. A 4-3 victory at Fiorentina in their first game was followed by a 4-3 defeat at Juventus. On Saturday they won 2-0 at home to bottom of the table Sampdoria. Manager Carlo Ancelotti was happy with the win but conceded that his team need to defend better.
“It was a good display and we deserved the win. It was important to impose our game and keep a clean sheet as well. In the first half, we made a few mistakes bringing the ball out which allowed them to break. We can breathe a sigh of relief because we’ve finally kept a clean sheet, but we still need to improve defensively.”
Liverpool have had a perfect start to their league season. Five wins from five games have seen the Reds top the Premier League table. After their recent 3-1 victory over Newcastle United, Liverpool have a five point advantage over second placed Manchester City.
Ones to Watch
Dries Merten has started this season in impressive form. Three goals and an assist has helped his club to two victories in their opening three games. Last season he hit 20 goals in all competitions. His tally for Napoli now stands at 112 goals. In the Champions League, Mertens also has a good record, scoring ten goals in 26 games.
The lightning-quick Liverpool forward has begun this season in scintillating form. He has scored six goals this season, terrorising defences. Twenty-six goals in all competitions last season, including 22 in the league, saw Mane share the Premier League Golden Boot with Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In Europe, Mane is also in fine form. He has scored 14 goals in 24 appearances.
Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti has only one injury in his squad. Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik is currently sidelined with a groin injury. At present, apart from Milik, Ancelotti has a full-strength squad to choose from. His squad includes former Tottenham Hotspur forward Fernando Llorente, who signed recently.
Liverpool will be without three players for their trip to Italy. Goalkeeper Alisson remains on the sidelines with a calf injury. Midfielder Naby Keita has a hip injury. The Guinean is close to returning; however, the Napoli game is expected to come too soon for him. Nathaniel Clyne has a long-term injury and is unlikely to feature this year.