Napoli vs LiverpoolUEFA Champions League, KO: 20:00 Sep 17, 2019, San Paolo Stadium
LIVERPOOL begin the defence of their UEFA Champions League trophy with a tricky trip to Naples in one of the ties of the round on Tuesday night.
Drawn alongside Genk and Red Bull Salzburg these two sides should expect to make it out the group so I wouldn't expect either to be too gung-ho in going for the win at the San Paolo Stadium as it'll be points won elsewhere that'll most likely determine their qualification.
Both sides met at the group stage of the competition last season, each winning their respective home match by a single goal. There was little to choose between them in the final group standings too, with either side finishing on nine points and with a +2 goal difference. It took a nervy 1-0 win, including a last gasp save by Allison to send Liverpool through to the Last 16 while Napoli's disappointment was cushioned by landing in the knock-out stages Europa League where they were eventually dismissed by Arsenal in the quarters.
On their way to winning the trophy for the sixth time, the Reds chalked up just one away win (a 4-1 quarter-final victory at Porto) from six – not counting the neutral final in Madrid. In doing so they became the third club (Milan in 2002-03 and Real Madrid 1999-2000 being the others) to win the competition whilst losing a record four matches. In fact they've lost six of their last 10 European matches outside England.
Seasons so far
The Italians are only three games in to the Serie A season so not much form to go on for Carlo Ancelotti's side. They warmed up for Liverpool's visit with a 2-0 home win over Sampdoria on Saturday; Dries Mertens grabbing both goals.
But prior to that they were involved in two league matches that are arguably contenders for ‘game of the season' already. A thrilling 4-3 opening day win at Fiorentina was followed by a heart-breaking 4-3 defeat at champions Juventus, which saw Napoli mount an epic comeback from three-down, only to concede a Kalidou Koulibaly own goal in added time.
Liverpool came from behind to secure a 3-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday and Man City's subsequent defeat at Norwich saw the Reds stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League. It's 15 goals in five matches for Liverpool so far and with Mane, Firminho and Salah firing on all cylinders Europe be warned, again.
With all that in mind this game presents quite a conundrum; on the one hand you've got two free-scoring teams, who are averaging three goals per game, on the other you counter that with the fact that both clashes last season were low-scoring, home wins.
Sticking my neck on the line, I think each gaffer will be happy with not to lose their opening match of the group so it could be a cagier affair than their respective domestic form suggests.
Napoli look a generous 21/10 (Betway) to win and an even more appealing 6/5 Draw No Bet when you consider Liverpool's iffy away record on the continent.
Despite the rich array of attacking talent on offer I'm also tempted to go against the bookies on the total goals market. Under 2.5 goals is 6/5. Four of Napoli's group matches last season would've banked that bet, and Liverpool failed to score in half their away games en route to the final.
This UEFA Champions League match between Napoli and Liverpool will be played on Sep 17, 2019 and kick off at 20:00