Football

Champions League | Troubled Napoli visits Liverpool

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp takes part in a press conference at Melwood in Liverpool on November 26, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group E football match against Napoli.

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp takes part in a press conference at Melwood in Liverpool on November 26, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group E football match against Napoli.   | Photo Credit: AFP

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A wobbling Dortmund will also try set things right at Barcelona

Napoli heads for Liverpool on Wednesday for a Champions League clash which could prove crucial to coach Carlo Ancelotti’s future at the troubled Italian club.

The three-time Champions League winning coach’s second season at the Stadio San Paolo has proved to be a complicated one, after leading it to second in Serie A in his first year.

His team’s fortunes has waned after the high of opening its Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win over reigning European champion Liverpool, with dressing room unrest amid friction between the players and club management.

Still on course

Napoli is still on course to qualify for the knockout rounds as it is second in Group E behind Liverpool, four points ahead of third-placed Salzburg with two games to play.

It will reach the last 16 if it beats Liverpool or if Salzburg does not beat Genk, having failed to advance past the group stages last season. But it comes up against a Liverpool side which has an eight-point advantage on top of the Premier League table and whose only loss this season came at the San Paolo.

To add to its problems Napoli will be without captain Lorenzo Insigne, who hurt his elbow in Saturday’s Serie A match. Forward Arkadiusz Milik has an abdominal inflammation, joining an injury list which already includes defensive duo Kevin Malcuit and Faouzi Ghoulam.

Main man Mane

For Liverpool meanwhile, Sadio Mane has, in the words of teammate Andy Robertson, “taken his game to another level”, stepping out of Mohamed Salah’s shadow to become arguably the main man at Anfield.

The Senegal international shares star billing with Salah and Roberto Firmino as part of the European champion’s electrifying and fluid front three. On Wednesday he will train his sights on Napoli.

“He has been fantastic,” said Robertson. “Even when I came he was amazing but maybe did not have as much composure as he does now in front of goal.”

“The only criticism I could ever have of Sadio is that maybe at times he is the only one not to see just how good he is,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

Borussia Dortmund will hope goal-scoring defender Achraf Hakimi will again be its Champions League “weapon” to shoot down Barcelona on Wednesday and relieve pressure on under-fire coach Lucien Favre.

With two group games left, a last 16 place is still firmly in the hands of the Germans, who sit a point behind pool leader Barcelona, thanks to Hakimi’s two goals in a stunning 3-2 home win over Inter Milan three weeks ago.

However, dreadful Bundesliga results in the meantime leave Favre needing a good performance in Barcelona to safeguard his job.

Now it’s up to Hakimi and his team-mates to bring a breath of fresh air in Barcelona to Dortmund’s stale season.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 7:48:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/champions-league-troubled-napoli-visits-liverpool/article30090221.ece

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