Liverpool are flying domestically and will hope to secure their passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League when they host Napoli at Anfield on Wednesday (3pm ET).
Liverpool maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a 2-1 win away to Crystal Palace on Saturday. It was their 12th win in 13 matches of an unbeaten start to the season that has already given them a strong advantage over the chasing pack.
Not for the first time this season (for the fourth, to be exact), it was a late goal that proved decision for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Sadio Mane had put them ahead early into the second half, only for Palace to equalize inside the final 10 minutes. Liverpool’s lead was quickly restored as Roberto Firmino forced home an 85th-minute winner.
It wasn’t exactly a vintage performance, as Klopp himself admitted afterwards. In fact, few of Liverpool’s away displays have been, particularly recently. Not that it matters all that much if they continue to accumulate sufficient points to maintain their hefty lead atop the table. There is still an awfully long way to go, but Liverpool currently look very well-placed finally to win their 19th top-flight league title, 30 years after the last.
As the Champions League holders and finalists in each of the last two seasons, they will also seek to make good progress in Europe. Wednesday’s match brings together the two teams best-placed to advance from Group E into the knockout rounds. Liverpool lead the way on nine points, with Napoli a point behind in second, four clear of Red Bull Salzburg in third. Already eliminated Genk are at the bottom, with just a single point.
A win for either side would guarantee their progress to the last 16 with a match still to spare, while a draw would also be sufficient to see them both go through if Salzburg are unable to win away at Genk in the night’s other match. If Salzburg lose at Genk, both would also advance regardless of the result at Anfield.
If Salzburg do win at Genk, it is arguably Liverpool who would suffer more from a draw or defeat on Wednesday. If Napoli lose or draw, they still know that a win at home to Genk on the final matchday would see them through. If Liverpool drop points, they would enter into a final day shootout away at Salzburg, with most configurations of defeat eliminating them.
Klopp’s team received full warning of Napoli’s potential in the first fixture between these sides. It was a well-contested affair decided by two goals inside the final 10 minutes of play. Driens Mertens converted from the penalty spot after Andy Robertson had been adjudged to have upended Jose Callejon inside the area. Then the ex-Tottenham Hotspur striker Fernando Llorente made the most of an erred pass from Virgil van Dijk to seal a 2-0 win.
That was one of four wins in Napoli’s opening five matches of the season that seemed to bode for a strong campaign but things have gone south since. Napoli have recorded just three further wins across their subsequent 12 matches in all competitions and travel to Anfield having seen their winless streak stretch to six matches with a 1-1 draw away at Milan on Saturday.
There appear to be a number of internal battles being fought within the club, between players, coaching staff (headed by ex-Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti) and directors. The result is that one of the most talented squads in Serie A and a team who have finished second in three of the last four seasons are already 15 points behind leaders Juventus.
Our Preview’s Liverpool vs Napoli Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
That situation has somewhat eased the difficulty of Liverpool’s task on Wednesday night. Klopp and his side know that victory will be enough to see them through, and with Mohamed Salah back fit and ready to go after being rested for the weekend win over Palace, that is something they can be fancied to achieve against Napoli.
- Bet on ‘Liverpool to win and over 2.5 goals to be scored’ @ best odds of evens with Bovada.