Football: Reds ready to take on Napoli in 'final'

Liverpool will need both forward Mo Salah (left) and defender Virgil van Dijk to be at their best against Napoli at home today. One goal, along with a clean sheet, will be enough to send the Reds through to the Champions League knockout stages.
Liverpool will need both forward Mo Salah (centre) and defender Virgil van Dijk to be at their best against Napoli at home today. One goal, along with a clean sheet, will be enough to send the Reds through to the Champions League knockout stages.PHOTO: REUTERS

If PSG win, Liverpool must beat Italians 1-0 or by two clear goals to progress to last 16 in Europe

LONDON • There is always something electric in the air at fortress Anfield when European evenings come around and Liverpool will again be counting on the "special atmosphere" as they seek to write another chapter in their illustrious history against Napoli today.

The permutations for Jurgen Klopp's men are clear - with Paris Saint-Germain expected to beat already eliminated Red Star Belgrade away, Liverpool must either win 1-0 or by two clear goals or more to pip Group C leaders Napoli by virtue of having a better head-to-head Champions League record.

The stage is now set for a brilliant night under the lights where Liverpool will require the kind of grandstand finish they enjoyed in 2004 when they had to beat Greek side Olympiakios by two clear goals in their last group game to progress, a feat accomplished through Steven Gerrard's last-gasp screamer.

At the Reds' pre-match press conference yesterday, defender Virgil van Dijk was in a confident mood, declaring the match to be a "final for us" and they were "ready to show everyone in the world that we belong in the Champions League".

"It's going to be a very tough game but we should believe in ourselves that we can do it. I definitely believe. We need to show it," he said.

"We need to win and hopefully, not concede. Otherwise we need to win by a lot of goals.

TIME TO STEP UP

It's going to be a very tough game but we should believe in ourselves that we can do it. I definitely believe. We are ready to show everyone in the world that we belong in the Champions League.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK, Liverpool defender, is brimming with confidence that his side have what it takes to secure a place in the knockout stages.

"Be ready to do what we've done the whole season, we have plenty of quality to score, and to defend them as well."

Liverpool boss Klopp was equally bullish after one of his "Fab Three", forward Sadio Mane, was passed fit for the encounter, while the team were also boosted by the contract extension penned by injured defender Joe Gomez until 2024.

"Sadio can deal with the pain obviously... so that's cool," the German told reporters. "It's good enough that we can consider him at least."

Klopp's belief that last season's Champions League finalists can progress to the last 16 this term also stems partly from the fact that his side have not lost in 18 European games at home, going back to October 2014.

On the other hand, Napoli have never won in England in six previous visits.

But the five-time European champions will not be taking the Italian Serie A side lightly, with Klopp claiming the visitors were "good in possession, counter-attacks and in defence", despite being convinced his players were capable of producing "something special".

"Now we have the chance to go through and that is pretty special after the campaign (Liverpool have lost all three away games in their group) we played so far," he added.

"I am really looking forward to it. It is a big opportunity for us and we will try everything to put it right."

He also confirmed that midfielder Adam Lallana was in line to feature while defender Dejan Lovren, who has missed their last three matches, would undertake a late fitness test to determine his involvement in the game.

REUTERS

LIVERPOOL V NAPOLI

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline 'Reds ready to take on Napoli in 'final''. Print Edition | Subscribe