Klopp urges Liverpool to improve at Napoli after past Champions League failings

·3-min read

Jurgen Klopp kept his message to his Liverpool players simple ahead of their Champions League opener at Napoli, urging the Reds to "play better" after previous struggles in Naples.

Wednesday will mark the third time Napoli and Liverpool have met in the Champions League group stage in the past five seasons, with the Italian side winning home games against the Reds in both 2018-19 (1-0) and 2019-20 (2-0).

Klopp also lost 2-1 at Napoli while Borussia Dortmund coach, and he knows his players must improve on these previous showings.

"I'm a late bloomer," he said. "I always need a little bit longer to achieve my stuff, and that means sometimes I have to try two times, sometimes three times, sometimes four times – and Napoli [could be] four times, obviously.

"What do we have to do? Play better than in the previous three games – that would be very helpful, because we didn't play particularly well when we came here. One reason is because Napoli are pretty strong."

Despite Liverpool's poor record at Napoli, the Reds have won each of their last three away games against Italian sides in European competition, although the Partenopei have five victories in six Champions League home games against Premier League opposition.

Luciano Spalletti will be in the opposite dugout to Klopp this time around, and the German heaped praise on the Napoli coach and his squad.

"He is a real great of the game, worked all over the world, very successful, you can always see his stamp on the team," Klopp added.

"It's always clear who is the coach, I respect that a lot. Looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.

"[The Napoli players] are not all young, but they're all good... I'm not 100 per cent sure, but I think not too long ago there was a bit of a nervous situation in Napoli around when players left for different reasons; obviously it has all settled again.

"I'm really happy for the people here. But one player who always stayed is [Piotr] Zielinski, and around him you could build again another team – it's a really, really interesting project, I have to say.

"Good football, intense style, different approaches, so really good. Spalletti is a good coach, so nobody should be surprised, and he's obviously pretty relaxed about maybe some nervous things around. So, it's probably a really good fit – that's how it looks."

Arthur Melo, on loan at Liverpool from Juventus, will be familiar with Napoli after his exploits in Serie A and could make his debut against Spalletti's side, but Klopp warns the midfielder will need time to settle.

"Arthur needs now just football – and training, especially – that's how it is. He wasn't in team training for a while at Juve, so he needs proper team training – and that's what we are doing with him," Klopp explained.

"Can he play minutes? Yes. Should he play full game? No, because he needs to get used to the intensity in each competition. It's not like in the Champions League you have to work less than in the Premier League.

"Not at all, especially not here. He is doing well, he is really giving his absolute all in training. We have to be careful with him as well, and then we will see whether we can use him."