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Preview: Napoli vs. Liverpool

Familiar faces await Liverpool when they begin their Champions League campaign on Tuesday with a visit to Napoli, the Serie A side who beat the Reds and almost fatally derailed the run that led all the way to the trophy last season.

The rerun of last term’s group stage fixture represents an intriguing tangle between two teams who finished second in their respective top flights last season.

Less than a year after the hosts won 1-0 in Naples, the two meet as part of a group that both will expect to progress from, with a reasonably kind draw producing Red Bull Salzburg and Genk as their rivals to reach the knockout stages.


Carlo Ancelotti is a man not predisposed to looking impressed, but the Napoli coach had one less reason to crack a smile recently following a visit by builders to the Stadio San Paolo.

Napoli agreed to play both of their opening Serie A games away from home while renovation works were carried out on the changing rooms, but the coach has voiced his disapproval at the quality of the work.

Napoli have become embroiled in a curious war of words with the architects responsible for the renovation, posting a video on social media showing missing sinks and jutting electrical sockets, among other oddities.

There was plenty of non-building related drama during Napoli’s hiatus from their home, taking in 14 goals across two games and leaving them on the right and wrong ends of a pair of 4-3 scorelines.

In their opening match, at Fiorentina, they fell behind early on before scoring four goals in less than half an hour to win the game, including a 67th-minute winner with the scores level at 3-3.

Their next game, at champions Juventus, was even more exciting, although not for all the reasons Ancelotti would have wanted.

Taking on the team who beat them to the title by 11 points last season, Napoli recovered from going 3-0 down after 62 minutes to score three times in 15 minutes, only for centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly to net a 92nd-minute own goal that restored Juve’s lead and gave them the win.

Diminutive midfielder Dries Mertens scored in both halves as Napoli enjoyed a 2-0 win at home to Sampdoria on Saturday, lifting them to fifth in the early table, three points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Recent form: WLW


Less than five months after their last visit to Champions League opponents, when they were seen off 3-0 by Barcelona on a night when their hopes of becoming champions appeared in tatters, Liverpool will expect a more comfortable group stage experience than they endured last season.

They lost all three of their group stage games away from home, starting with that night at Napoli and proceeding to a 2-0 setback at Red Star Belgrade and a 2-1 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain.

Their home form saved them. With the exception of their opening 3-2 win over the Parisiens – a fine result in itself – Liverpool kept clean sheets in all of their Champions League matches at Anfield last season, including gaining revenge over Napoli.

Coach Jurgen Klopp has pointed out that two of his Champions League stars from last season, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, have benefited from not participating in international matches during the recent Premier League break.

Striker Salah scored five goals while Senegal’s Mane scored four on Liverpool’s triumphant run, and between them the pair were directly involved in 12 of the Reds’ goals in Europe.

Their influence could be key as they look to help Liverpool improve a record of six defeats from their last 10 matches in Europe outside of England.

Klopp’s men have lost on their last two visits to Italy but have only fallen to defeat in three of their last nine away games against Italian clubs, picking up three wins.

A 3-1 win at home to Newcastle United on Saturday, featuring a Mane double and a late Salah goal, kept Liverpool at the top of the table with a fifth straight league win and continued a superb start to the season in which they have become the only side in all four English divisions to win every match so far.

Recent form: WDWWWW


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