Liverpool begin the defence of their Champions League crown at the atmospheric Stadio San Paolo with Serie A giants Napoli hoping to spring another surprise.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men locked horns with the Reds in last season’s Champions League group stage and with the two sides exchanging 1-0 home wins.
With the group also consisting of Red Bull Salzburg and Genk, both champions of their respective countries (Austria and Belgium), this could be a battle between the eventual table toppers.
Read on for our predictions, key players, TV info and team news ahead of Napoli vs Liverpool.
When is Napoli vs Liverpool and where can I watch live?
Competition: Champions League
Venue: Stadio San Paolo
Date: Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Kick-off: 8PM BST
TV coverage (UK): BT Sport 2
Last four meetings: Napoli vs Liverpool
11 December 2018: Liverpool 1-0 Napoli (Champions League)
3 October 2018: Napoli 1-0 Liverpool (Champions League)
4 November 2010: Liverpool 3-1 Napoli (Europa League)
21 October 2010: Napoli 0-0 Liverpool (Europa League)
Aggregate Score: Napoli (LWLD) 2-4 Liverpool (WLWD)
Ones to watch
Napoli: Dries Mertens
Dries Mertens began his seventh consecutive season at Napoli with doubts regarding his long-term future. The 32-year-old Belgian forward, who famously switched from playing outside into becoming a handy ‘false nine’, previously turned down overtures from China but hasn’t ruled out an adventure outside Europe one day.
For now, however, he’s continuing from where he left off last season. A goal and assist first up against Fiorentina has since been followed up by a brace against Sampdoria. He proved to be a tricky customer for Liverpool in their previous meetings and boss Carlo Ancelotti is expected to field him as part of a two-man attack with new boy Hirving Lozano likely to be his partner.
His record in the Champions League for Napoli is fairly decent: 10 goals, across 26 outings.
Key stat: Only Marek Hamšík (121) and Diego Maradona (115) have scored more goals for Napoli than Dries Mertens (112).
Liverpool: Sadio Mane
No longer a supporting act, there’s a strong case to be made that Sadio Mane is Liverpool’s go-to man. Since the beginning of last season he’s outperformed and outscored his equally illustrious forward partners Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, though this is a good thing for their manager Jurgen Klopp as being over-reliant on a single talent often spells disaster.
Mane in the Champions League has been particularly frightening, having registered 14 goals in 24 appearances to date. Aside from the quantity of those strikes, he’s occasionally popped up when needed, a notable case being away to Bayern Munich en route to the club lifting their sixth crown.
Of late Mane has been in irresistible form; across his last six matches for Liverpool in all competitions he’s bagged six goals and created a further one. Napoli’s full-backs should expect a long evening.
Key stat: Sadio Mané is the first Liverpool player in the Champions League era to score 10 knockout stage goals.
Carlo Ancelotti, who famously took on Liverpool in two Champions League finals, goes into his latest encounter with the Merseyside giants with just one player unavailable to him. Polish marksman Arkadiusz Milik is sidelined with a groin injury. There are a couple of tactical considerations for the renowned Italian coach: the system he’ll deploy and the personnel to fill it.
To date Ancelotti has preferred a 4-4-2, if he retains that formation it remains to be seen who partners Mertens, the candidates being Lozano or captain Lorenzo Insigne who scored in the club’s only previous win over the Reds.
Predicted XI: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejón, Ruiz, Elmas, Zielinski; Lozano, Mertens.
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No fewer than three players are missing for Liverpool as they head to southern Italy, the most notable being world football’s premier goalkeeper Alisson, meaning a Champions League debut beckons for Adrián whose only previous experience of international club football before this season’s Super Cup final came in the Europa League qualifying stages when he played for West Ham.
Klopp is expected to go to his first choice midfield for these big occasions. As a result Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started in their recent Premier League win over Newcastle United, should make way for skipper Jordan Henderson. Roberto Firmino, a 37th-minute substitute in that 3-1 victory, should also be there from the kick-off.
Predicted XI: Adrián; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Liverpool struggled on their European travels last season. Klopp’s men suffered four defeats across 12 Champions League outings – minus the final which took place on neutral ground – with all of those coming on the road. Three of which came in the group phase including at Napoli who could not capitalise on that win as they were dumped into the Europa League.
The Reds have been in scintillating form and should pose the Italian outfit a few problems but this being the first game and neither keen on losing, expect a tense affair that could be decided by a single lapse in concentration. We feel the spoils will be shared.
Scoreline prediction: Napoli 1-1 Liverpool