When Liverpool and Napoli faced each other last season in the UEFA Champions League, the teams had won their respective home games. They were drawn in the same group again this year and Napoli went on to win the home leg 2-0 in September, putting pressure on the Reds to cough up a win at home as Group enters matchday five.
There are several key battles to look forward to when these two teams lock horns but none more interesting than the face-off between red-hot Liverpool attack, including Sadio Mane and the Napoli defence, led by Kalidou Koulibaly.
While Koulibaly and co. are going through a bad patch of form domestically, they still stand a chance to beat Liverpool and even top the group in the Champions League. Whether Carlo Ancelotti can get his players to remain focused on the big game at hand amidst the turmoil off the field is the million-dollar question. Liverpool will have an advantage even before the ball has been kicked.
The Reds have been exciting to watch and a lot of credit needs to go to their front three that includes Sadio Mane on the left flank. The versatility of Roberto Firmino allows Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to occupy central positions during transitions and this has more often than not been a nightmare that opposition defence hasn't been able to deal with, except for Napoli.
In Naples, on September 18, the dangerous trio was kept quiet by the Napoli backline led by Koulibaly. The tall defender, who boasts excellent physique, has been dominating the strikers for years now and has attracted interest from several top European clubs, including Manchester United. For Mane and co., outfoxing the centre-back will be the biggest hurdle if they are to claim three points at Anfield.
Napoli are winless in six games and will have to step up their efforts on the field to get the better of a strong Liverpool team who have been unbeaten in their last 13 games. Interestingly, their last defeat came at the hands of Napoli two months ago. To make matters more difficult for the Italian club, Reds' last home defeat in Europe came against Real Madrid in 2014.
Mane has scored 10 goals in all competitions including two goals and an assist from four matches in the Champions League. Napoli have only managed one clean sheet in their last seven matches. Can Kalidou Koulibaly stand his ground against an impressive, on-fire Liverpool attack?