Napoli defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo and director Cristiano Guintoli have offered contrasting perspectives on Liverpool ahead of the Champions League clash.
The Reds get their European campaign under way in Naples on Wednesday looking to go one better than last season’s final. Inter, Benfica and Villarreal offered Liverpool stern tests last term, but Real Madrid proved a step too far.
And after a 63-game campaign ended in a hurtful defeat, Liverpool have proved a mixed bag after the summer break.
A convincing Premier League win over Bournemouth has contrasted with struggles against Manchester United and Fulham. Consequently, there is anticipation about how Liverpool will perform in a change of scenery and competition.
Napoli are the first opponents for Jurgen Klopp’s side in Group A on Wednesday. The Serie A club finished second in the Italian top flight last term.
Speaking in a pre-match press conference, right-back and captain Di Lorenzo insisted Liverpool still remain a big threat.
“In games like this you have to take risks,” Di Lorenzo said. “When we have the ball we will have to show our qualities.
“You need balance but also personality. Liverpool are not in trouble. The Champions League is not the Premier [League], they will want to start well.
“But we too want to play a great game at home. The lack of experience can also be an extra boost, given the desire to play the Champions League. We had not been in the Champions League for two years, the goal is to pass the group.”
However, Napoli director Giuntoli has admitted that Liverpool look like they are struggling, claiming Klopp has tinkered with his tactics.
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Giuntoli said: “It’s a tough game even if we won the last two meetings.
“Right now, they seem to be struggling, but they’ve changed something and it’s going to be a difficult game for both.”
Liverpool and Napoli met in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns, so are regular opponents in the competition.
Carlo Ancelotti was the Napoli manager for those meetings, with Luciano Spalletti the current incumbent of the role.
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Liverpool’s clashes with Napoli this term will prove a good indication of their progress – and a chance to look back and compare.
Apart from last season, when the Reds won six of six matches in the group stages, Liverpool have struggled in away trips in the Champions League.
And Napoli has proved a tough ground to go to, with the Serie A club winning both recent matches between the sides at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Liverpool fared somewhat better at Anfield in their recent matches against Napoli, winning one match and drawing the other.
Indeed, the narrow 1-0 victory in December 2018 dramatically secured Liverpool’s spot in the knockout stages. Mohamed Salah netted the winner before Alisson Becker produced a fantastic late save.
It was one such example of a crucial win Liverpool have ground out under Klopp. And that is something Liverpool have struggled with this season.
They have gone behind first in many of their recent matches, giving them not only more work to do to get back into the game, but then go on and secure victory.
Liverpool need to show the same intensity they showed against Napoli in December 2018 if they are to win on Wednesday.
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