Liverpool 1 – 0 Napoli: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Reds Move on to the Knockout Rounds

On a night where a professional and clinical effort was needed, every member of the team stood up and was counted. Liverpool faced relegation to the Europa League if they failed, but the Reds never looked like doing so.

Mo Salah, the Egyptian King, continued his resurgence with the first and only goal in the 35th minute, ultimately sealing the Reds’ progression. It was a well-taken effort and one that the team deserved after the string of chances that preceded and followed the goal.

There were some nervy moments throughout, particularly towards the end, but part of that stems from us fans still coming to terms with the fact that our team is more than capable of defending a narrow lead now.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Player Ratings

Alisson – (Man of the Match) 10

Normally when the ‘keeper receives the man of the match award it reflects poorly on the rest of the team as it suggests they didn’t do much with the ball and didn’t protect their own goal enough. That isn’t the case here though.

Alisson was a wall all night and his only mistake was one poor pass. He produced what has to go down as the moment of the season so far with his last-minute save to deny Arkadiusz Milik a goal that would’ve sent the Reds crashing out of the tournament. He had no right to block a shot from that distance, yet, this is the standard the Brazilian has set for himself since he’s arrived. Best ‘keeper in the world? Quite possibly.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7.5

Trent had a nightmare against Napoli last time, and the Italians hadn’t forgotten as they targeted his side all night, but unlike last time, the Scouser was up for the challenge, aside from a couple of moments where the opposition got the better of him.

Furthermore, he provided a few well-placed balls into the box which could’ve led to goals, including one that Milner probably scored from. Sadly, he was brought off through injury late into the game, but let’s hope it’s not serious enough to keep him out of the United game.

Joel Matip – 8

Matip had another excellent game, but like TAA, he too faces a nervous wait to see how serious his injury is. His side was favoured by the opposition again, but he was able to deal with everything Napoli threw at him.

He was equally as strong in the air as he was on the ground, and crucially, his passing was mostly impeccable. We haven’t seen the best of Matip’s passing as he’s still used to hoofing it under pressure because he couldn’t trust his ‘keeper enough to pass it back. Once he’s more comfortable with this new style though, he’ll get even better.

Virgil van Dijk – 9

There was concern from the fans when VVD picked an early, and harsh, yellow card, but the only person who didn’t seem phased by it was the man himself. Other centre-backs might’ve let the anxiety get to them, but the big Dutchman was as confident as ever.

He made countless interventions to stop Napoli’s attackers in their tracks, which forced them to begin shooting from distance. Unfortunately, the booking means he’ll miss the first leg of our round of 16 game next year. 

Andy Robertson – 8.5

He’s done it again. How much more of this will it take before neutral fans start recognising the fact that Robbo has well and truly developed into one of the world’s best after only 12 months or so as a regular in the team?

His defending was good, but it was his attacking runs that really caught the eye; he was relentless. He should’ve had an assist when Mane wasted a glorious chance, but Robbo’s tenacious running alone helped the team by pinning Napoli’s right flank back.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Jordan Henderson – 8.5

A season-best performance couldn’t have come at a better time for our under-fire captain. Many, including myself, were simply baffled when Hendo was included ahead of Fabinho and Keita, but the Englishman calmed all fears with a true captain’s performance.

It wasn’t just that he was crunching into tackles and breaking up play, it was that he answered his critics with some driving runs and, most importantly, got the ball moving forward as quickly as possible. If he can keep that up, then a lot of the hate he gets online will simply vanish.

Gini Wijnaldum – 9

For the first time in what feels like months we got to see the real Gini Wijnaldum. Even at his worst, Gini’s able to retain possession under pressure incredibly well, so getting the ball off of him on a night like this was mission impossible.

Unlike in previous performances, he maintained a high standard until the final whistle and played a deciding role in limiting Napoli’s chances late on. He was certainly the catalyst for linking everything up on the night.

James Milner – 8.5

Not to be forgotten, Milner also had a tremendous game. The engine he possess is simply staggering, and he was an utter nightmare for Napoli’s midfielders all night.

The only criticism of his performance was that he could’ve gotten himself a couple of goals. His first chance came from an excellent cross from TAA and the next game just before he was subbed when he narrowly shot past the upright.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Mo Salah – 9

He’s never gonna stop. Mo Salah is on fire right now! He did miss a big chance early on when his first touch let him down and had another couple of opportunities to score, but in the end, it was his goal that sent us through.

He got past Kalidou Koulibaly, which is no mean feat, and then put the ball into the back of the net with a lovely finish from a difficult angle, embarrassing a flailing David Ospina in the process.

Sadio Mane – 6.5

Given his effort over the 90 minutes, it feels harsh to give Mane such a low rating, but he did miss some glaring chances that could’ve made the night so much easier and less stressful.

Encouragingly, he kept getting into the right positions, but his finishing was very poor by his standards. Let’s hope he makes up for it with a goal or two against United!

Bobby Firmino – 7

It’s a shame that Bobby’s yet to go through the same resurgence that Mo is experiencing, but I’ve got no doubt that a return to his best form is just around the corner.

He’s already getting better though, and against Napoli, he showed glimpses of what he’s capable of. He set up a few chances and clearly looks more comfortable up top than in behind in a 4-2-3-1.

 

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Subs

Naby Keita – (on for Firmino 79′) 7

It was a surprise not to see Keita in the starting lineup, but that’s perhaps a sign he’ll start against United. He gave the team a lift when he came on, disrupting Napoli’s attempts to overrun us.

Fabinho – (on for Milner 85′) N/A

Fab didn’t have enough time on the pitch for a proper rating, but his aerial presence was invaluable late on.

Dejan Lovren – (on for Alexander-Arnold 89′) N/A

The Croat had one ‘classic Lovren’ moment, but luckily the failed clearance didn’t lead to anything.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9

Most fans, including myself, doubted Klopp’s midfield selection before the game, and some thought the decision was downright mad given Fabinho and Keita’s form and the importance of the match itself.

Once again though, Klopp proved everyone wrong and was rewarded for this faith in his more experienced midfield trio. This decision, or gamble in the eyes of some, was arguably the deciding factor in the game. People can point at the Salah goal or the Alisson save, but the fact is that the midfield won us that game.

His shrewd selections also mean that Shaq, Fab, and Keita are completely fresh and ready to hammer United when they come to Anfield on the weekend.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Talking Points

Huge Result

It’s a strange time in modern football that many fans have admitted that they’d have rathered drop out of Europe entirely than have gone into the Europa League.

I’ll admit, I was one of those fans. Regardless of how other people may view it, I have little to no interest in Europe’s second division and view it mainly as an unnecessary distraction unless you reach the semis. It means so much extra travelling and far less time on the training pitch as a result, which is a luxury we can’t afford when we’re trying to hold off Manchester City.

Now that we’re in the Champions League knockouts though, I hope we go far. Yes, it also means travel and less preparation, but the UCL still holds value for fans and players alike. We can’t claim to be a big club while also hoping to go out in the next round so we can focus our efforts on the EPL, we should have enough to compete on two fronts.

Red Redemption

This games, along with the previous few, have seen multiple Reds redeem themselves in the eyes of the fans after a mediocre start to the season that’s been masked by terrific results.

Starting at the back, Matip’s been a revelation after we all lamented the temporary loss of Gomez. If he can keep this up, and stay fit of course, then he’ll have cemented his place in the squad for many seasons to come. Salah’s return has been talked about to death, but it can’t be overemphasised how important he is to the side.

The midfield deserves the most praise though in this regard. Not only did the starting trio play brilliantly, but it came after Fabinho and Keita had played their way back into the side. We now have 5 legitimate options in midfield at the most crucial point of our season so far. 

Bring on United

I’m always nervous about United games. They mean so much to me in that a win can make a poor season acceptable, and a good season a frustrating one if we lose or have a bad draw. This season’s clash will see the stakes raised even further in the context of our title chase and Jose Mourinho’s efforts to stay in a job.

Jose will likely try and do to us what he did last season and use Rashford, and possibly Martial’s, pace to hurt us on the counter after keeping almost everyone behind the ball and soaking up as much pressure as possible.

This is why Gomez is a big loss because his pace would’ve negated that plan. Matip can catch these players over a long distance too though, so his inclusion would be acceptable, particularly if TAA can’t play so Milner shifts back to right-back. Lovren would struggle with this and his inferior passing ability would trouble us given the fact that our backline will see a lot of possession throughout the game.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 12/12/2018

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Liverpool vs Napoli – Champions League Preview

Liverpool take on Napoli at Anfield in the final game of the Champions League group stage.

The equation is simple. Liverpool must either win 1-0 or by two clear goals in order to progress to the knockout stages. Failure means almost certain relegation to the Europa League.

Napoli are a fierce opponent and already can boast one win over the Reds. If Klopp’s men aren’t careful, this could quickly turn into a nightmare. A balance of intense focus and ruthless aggression must be met if we are to win the game and progress to the knockouts.

Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup

Apart from the long-term injuries that are still hanging over us, Liverpool have no new injuries to report on.

The team should more or less pick itself aside from the midfield. There, Klopp has a pick of multiple options and formations. Keita and Fabinho’s form should see them retained in midfield, while Wijnaldum has been known to step up another gear in Champions League games.

Milner can’t be overlooked though as his experience and industry in the middle of the park could be invaluable. Klopp’s a big fan of Hendo as well, so it shouldn’t be too surprising if he is selected as well.

Napoli Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup (1)

Carlo Ancellotti is blessed with a clean sheet in fitness terms, but that can sometimes be a curse in the sense of having too many options.

Piotr Zielinski was phenomenal in the first game and should therefore see his chances of starting rise. However, Masksimovic presents a far more defensively sound option at right-back, and in this game, there’s no reason for Napoli to take unnecessary risks.

The rest of the team more or less picks itself due to the quality of the starting players, but Milik could be included if Ancellotti decides to utilise a more direct approach in this game.

Pre-Game Analysis

This is an unusual game in the sense that it’s difficult to decide upon what approach each manager should take.

Should Klopp play safe and hope we pluck a goal? We’ve proven we’re capable of defending narrow leads now, but perhaps this is the game to go back to our old still of just attacking relentlessly and hope that we put enough goals past Napoli that it doesn’t matter if we concede.

Likewise, Ancellotti has to decide whether to go for the 0-0 draw and try to frustrate the home side, or push for a goal that would give them a lot of breathing space.

Prediction

Napoli will try and push for that all important first goal, but that will play right into Liverpool’s hands.

Liverpool will snatch a goal on the counter and defend the lead from there. It feels strange to say that given our history, but this team is more than capable of doing the job tough now.

The Reds will progress to the next round after a nervy, but deserving, 1-0 victory. C’mon Liverpool!

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 11/11/2018

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Napoli 1 – 0 Liverpool

Liverpool Beaten After Flat Display

Out of context, a 1-0 loss away to Napoli in the Champions League isn’t a big deal. However, it was the manner of this defeat that has Reds fans upset. In all honesty, the scoreline flattered us.

Liverpool’s midfield looked hapless, our fullbacks were run ragged, and worst of all, the attack failed to click yet again.

Lorenzo Insigne won it for the hosts in the 90th minute with a long overdue goal. Not many players in red can take any momentum into the Manchester City game.

Player Ratings

Alisson – (Man of the Match) 8:

After the game, Klopp said “It’s always a bad sign when you have to say your goalkeeper was your best player, but it was obvious tonight”. That pretty much sums it up.

The Brazilian was outstanding and made several top saves to keep his team in the game. He was let down by some of his teammates who gifted chance after chance to the Italians.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 4:

In complete contrast to his performance against PSG where he easily handled Neymar, Trent was run ragged by Napoli. Even his passing, which usually very impressive, was wayward at times.

He was caught at the wrong end of the pitch too often and didn’t track back to resolve the issue. Manchester City will surely have identified this as an aspect to exploit.

Joe Gomez – 8:

Perhaps the only player whose form hasn’t dipped at any point this season. Joe was unbelievable again; comfortably coping with the quality attackers who tested him. He even led some attacks as he grew frustrated with the static midfielders ahead of him.

Some have questioned whether he should take some of the blame for the goal. He reacted a fraction too late for Insigne’s run, but that pales in comparison to the mistakes others made.

Virgil van Dijk – 7:

If it weren’t for our centre-back pairing, then the result could’ve been a lot worse. In particular, van Dijk made a courageous block to save his team around an hour into the game. He wasn’t as faultless as his partner though, Milner rescued one of his poor passes, and he was turned inside-out by Arkadiusz Milik.

Needs to be strong again on the weekend if his midfielders and fullbacks provide as little support against City as they did in this game.

Andy Robertson – 6:

Robbo wasn’t as bad as Trent defensively and positionally, despite having to deal with the pacy Jose Callejon. However, his final ball was lacking just like in the Chelsea game.

He’s a terrific player, but Robbo needs to improve his quality on the ball because so much of our play comes down the left-hand side. If he can, then he’ll be one of the best fullbacks in Europe, let alone the league.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6:

The best of the worst in midfield. There were times in the first half when I’d forgotten he was on the pitch, but he did improve in the second. His impeccable first touch helped the midfield maintain something of a foothold in the game.

The main reason he’s rated higher than his midfield colleagues is that Gini didn’t make any glaring mistakes, rather than having a good individual display.

James Milner – 5:

This was Milner’s worst performance in recent memory. In the last few matches Milner has fatigued as games went on, but against Napoli he looked tired from the get-go.

Fabinho was rightly brought on to replace him, but the change arguably could’ve come sooner as Milner did nothing to lead his side to victory aside from his usual marathon running.

Naby Keita – 3:

A Champions League night to forget for the Guinean for more reason than one. He misplaced passes and generally looked lost in a game that should’ve been his for the taking.

Went down injured after 19 minutes, and despite his performance, Liverpool fans will be hoping that he’ll be back sooner rather than later.

Sadio Mane – 6:

Despite most of the talk being about Salah’s ‘slump’, Mane doesn’t look much better at the moment. However, some more protection from the referee could’ve led to a more fruitful night.

He was as lively as ever, but too often he gave the ball away when Liverpool had a chance to create something. Unfortunately, those chances didn’t come very often either.

Mo Salah – 6:

Like Mane, you can’t fault Salah’s effort. He’s a player that’s clearly struggling for confidence. Statistically, he’s roughly on par with where he was this time last season, but you can’t help but feel that he’s not coping well.

Maybe he is going through a slump after all. Or perhaps we as fans need to manage our expectations better. Only time will tell.

Bobby Firmino – 7:

Bobby toiled through the match and did his best to try and create something with the scraps he was being fed from midfield. In all fairness, he did forge a couple of half-chances, but they led to nothing.

A lot of Salah’s success last season could be attributed to Bobby. He can’t do it alone though, he needs someone to feed and play off of.

Subs

Jordan Henderson – 6 (on for Keita 19′):

Hendo looked fired up when he came on, but unfortunately, he couldn’t transfer his enthusiasm into quality opportunities for the forwards.

Fabinho (on for Milner 76′) – 5:

Fabinho wasn’t too bad, but he’s yet to show proper glimpses of the quality that we all know he possesses.

Daniel Sturridge (on for Mane 89′) – N/A:

Should’ve been brought on much earlier. No time to make an impact.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 4:

While the result doesn’t rest solely on Klopp’s shoulders, he was outdone by a tactical masterclass from Carlo Ancelotti.

Klopp seemed reluctant to change his game plan even though it was clearly not working and the players weren’t executing it. The manager can hardly be blamed for individual errors though.

Strangely, Klopp went back to his old ways by taking an age to bring on his subs to try and rescue the game. Granted, he was a sub down after being forced into a change 19 minutes into the game, but Milner was exhausted long before he was subbed off. Likewise, Shaqiri and Sturridge can feel slightly miffed at not being trusted to change the game.

Talking Points

What This Means For Our Champions League Dream

In short, not a lot, yet. Napoli now sit on top of the group with four points, while PSG and Liverpool are tied for second with three points each.

Three points from a home game against PSG and an away trip to Napoli is nothing to be embarrassed by. However, given that the next two matches should be relatively easy wins against Red Star Belgrade, a draw in this fixture would’ve surely secured progression into the round of 16 with two games to spare.

There’s no time to dwell on that though, and the Reds will do what Liverpool do best: we go again. We’ll be better in the return leg, and that should be enough to get the job done so long as the PSG vs Napoli fixtures go our way.

Manchester City

Before the season started, this was a fixture that most Liverpool fans were gleefully looking forward to. But now there’s a sense of dread for what could happen if we aren’t at our best.

City have the quality to wreak havoc on the very best European sides, and Liverpool aren’t playing like one at the moment. Thankfully, City aren’t in top form either despite a string of good results.

The Citizens have key injuries that could be enough to give Liverpool a chance of recapturing the play that brought the champions to their knees last season.

The Positives

It may not seem like it, but there are some positives to take away. First and foremost, our centre backs and goalkeeper are outstanding. This is not a trait that has been associated with Liverpool for a very long time. Given that we’re below par at the moment, the fact that those three are still standing strong bodes well for when we are up and running.

We haven’t been brilliant in any of our games this season, but this is the first one where we were poor. Klopp knows that, and so do the players. This isn’t a trend that’s been plaguing us, all we need is a bit of luck to get the engines roaring and we’ll be on our way to greatness.

You could even argue that this is a good time to play City despite that fact that our form isn’t ideal. We usually rise for big games, and a good result in this one could be just what the doctor ordered for our players who are struggling.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – on 04/10/2018

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Napoli vs Liverpool – Preview

Reds Travel to Naples

The tough run continues as Liverpool take on second-place Napoli in the Champions League.

Liverpool’s lineup was shambolic the last time these two sides played each other. The likes of David N’Gog, Jay Spearing, and Paul Konchesky lead our dismal team.

A new look Liverpool will have to take on the dangerous Italians, backed by a passionate crowd, inside a hostile stadium.

Napoli Team News and Predicted Lineup

lineup (3)

Napoli will be without winger Amin Younes and former Tottenham defender Vlad Chiriches for the game, but still boast a strong lineup with some interesting rotational options.

Arkadiusz Milik is the most prominent of these options as the big Polish striker has the capability of disrupting even the best of defences on his day.

The only other uncertainty will be the formation which Carlo Ancelotti employs for this match. His Napoli side have utilised 4-4 -2, 4-2-3-1, and 4-4-1-1 to equal effect this season.

Liverpool Team News and Predicted Lineup

lineup (2)

Liverpool’s formation and tactics should be fairly straightforward, but considering we have one of the most important games of the season on the weekend against Manchester City, Klopp could be tempted to rest key players.

I do not expect Klopp to do so, but if he did, he could consider rotating the fullbacks. Similarly, he could rest our forwards by playing one or both of Xherdan Shaqiri or the in-form Daniel Sturridge.

The one change I am expecting is in the midfield. I believe Klopp will have faith in Naby Keita to build on his cameo against Chelsea by making his mark in the Champions League.

Pre-Game Analysis

Ancelotti’s side have the quality and tactical discipline to cause Liverpool problems. Their midfield duo perfectly combine industry with outstanding technique, and their wide players cover for each other during attacking plays.

Lorenzo Insigne is perhaps Napoli’s greatest weapon, but Dries Mertens can be just as dangerous. Both players are blessed with excellent feet and a great deal of pace; providing them with multiple ways in which they can score and create chances.

However, one of Napoli’s biggest weaknesses that can be exploited is the fact that they play with a high defensive line. This was the deciding factor in the pre-season thrashing of Napoli, 5 – 0, when Liverpool’s forwards tore them to ribbons by regularly finding space behind the defenders.

Prediction

Given that Liverpool’s lineup is largely guesswork at this point, it’s exceedingly difficult to make a realistic prediction.

However, if Klopp fields his strongest XI, the forwards should be able to make Napoli pay while our defenders snuff out their opportunities.

If my lineup is accurate, then I can see Liverpool remaining top of the group with a convincing 3 – 1 victory against the Neapolitans.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 04/10/2018

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