Three Keys for Napoli vs Liverpool


Champions League Group C is a tight one between leaders Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain and last year’s runner-up Liverpool entering the final round of play. As things stand, the Partenopei lead PSG by a single point, while holding a three point cushion over the English giants who they will pay a visit tonight at Anfield.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli can qualify for the Round of 16 through one of the following scenarios: 1) win or draw vs Liverpool, 2) lose by a goal, but score at least once (2-1, 3-2) and PSG wins/loses.

If Napoli lose and PSG draw, it will go to a three-team head-to-head, and then goal differential. But of course, the Italians control their own destiny here and will look to lock down first place by handling business themselves over Liverpool.

Here are three keys for Napoli to qualify vs Liverpool:

Control pace and rhythm of match early on: Liverpool need a victory here and will no doubt look to feed off the lively home crowd the moment the players step on the pitch. Because of this, the Reds will go full throttle and bring the match to Ancelotti and his Napoli from the jump, meaning the Azzurri must avoid conceding the early goal. Napoli boast the personnel to rev up their attacking approach when the game calls for it, but also know when to ease up and ensure the match does not escape them. Look for Ancelotti to suppress Klopp’s high-powered offence and let his men fall into a rhythm where they can control the flow out of the gate.

Neutralize Salah, Mane and Firmino through midfield play: Easier said than done of course, and perhaps stating the obvious, but Napoli must find a way to neutralize the attacking trident if they want any chance of leaving Anfield with a positive result. Under the assumption Ancelotti runs out an identical tactical shape to the first meeting (442) and same personnel (Callejon, Allan, Hamsik, Ruiz), there is plenty of technical quality and experience for Napoli to control the game through the midfield. Thus, limiting Liverpool’s opportunities to initiate the counter-attacking plays into space which makes the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane so lethal.

Avoid complacency and conservative approach: Napoli are in pole position to qualify for the knockout stage, needing only a draw to do so. However, it is unlikely that Ancelotti, a three-time UCL winner, will play it safe and chase the low-hanging fruit. The eye-brow raising boss understands what it would mean for the city of Naples and the supporters to win the group, so best believe there will be desire to pull off a statement victory on hallowed ground and in a daunting environment. Napoli have proven they can tussle with, and best, the big dogs this entire group phase, and flip on the offensive switch in an instant. The Serie A power must play without fear and be willing to push forward to take their chances if they want to avoid another miserable UCL fate that ends without qualification.

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