UCL: Liverpool battle Napoli; Tottenham face Barcelona

Mo Salah of Liverpool
Mo Salah of Liverpool [Photo Credit: : Getty Images Europe]

Liverpool are where they want to be in the English Premier League (EPL) but not in the UEFA Champions League (UCL), as they are 90 minutes away from falling into the Europa League if they do not get a good result against Napoli on Tuesday night.

A lapse in concentration in the 90th minute at Stadio San Paolo on October 3 is the reason this second meeting between Liverpool and Napoli has become a winner-takes-all affair.

Napoli lead Group C of the UEFA Champions League with nine points, ahead of PSG, who have eight and Liverpool with six. Thus, the Reds have to beat the Italians by at least two clear goals to eclipse their head-to-head record.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are unbeaten in the English Premier League, where they lead the table. But in Europe, they have lost thrice – all their away games, which compared to last season’s exploits is plainly unbelievable.

But at Anfield, they have been near invincible – scoring seven goals in their last two UCL matches – they will need such form against Napoli on Tuesday though the visitors are unbeaten in the UCL this season, picking up two wins and three draws. Another draw on Tuesday sends them through to the knockout rounds.

Klopp is banking on the ‘Anfield Magic’ to help his team through. “So far at home we were good – we have to be even better tomorrow night,” he told Liverpool’s official website.

“I told the boys, I really think if nothing special happens with referee decisions, we get tomorrow night [Tuesday] what we deserve.”

Napoli’s manager, Carlo Ancelotti, is not new to Liverpool or the EPL, so will have intimated his players about the raucous atmosphere that will be at Anfield and the manner in which the fans will buoy this Liverpool team. He told UEFA.com, “If we’re intelligent in the defensive and offensive phases, then we’ll go through.

“We also have a little advantage in the group; the cake has been made – now we need to add a little cherry,” he added.

Klopp will be relying again on the effectiveness and efficiency of his front three in the offensive and also defensive modes, hoping they are sharp and intelligent enough to hunt and win balls off the Napoli defenders and deep midfielders closer to their box.

Current Form: Liverpool [W-W-W-L-W]; Napoli [W-W-W-D-W]

Head to head

03/10/18 UCL Napoli 1 – 0 Liverpool

04/08/18 CLF Liverpool 5 – 0 Napoli

04/11/10 UEL Liverpool 3 – 1 Napoli

21/10/10 UEL Napoli 0 – 0 Liverpool

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Napoli

Barcelona v Tottenham @Nou Camp on Dec.11

Tottenham’s destiny to progress in the UCL is predicated on what Inter Milan does at the San Siro to PSV. But they must seek first to defeat Lionel Messi’s Barcelona – clearly a daunting task. It is a return to Catalonia for Mauricio Pochettino, who once coached Espanyol and he will be hoping for a good turn of events from Barcelona to Milan.

Luis Suarez has been ruled out of the encounter while Spurs have lost their two experienced right-backs – Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier which means Kyle Walker-Peters may have his first start of the season. A daunting task indeed for Spurs. But in football, anything is possible until the final whistle.

Current Form: Barcelona [W-W-W-W-D]; Tottenham [W-W-L-W-W]

Head to head

03/10/18 UCL Tottenham 2 – 4 Barcelona

29/07/18 ICC Barcelona 2 – 2 Tottenham

24/07/09 CLF Tottenham 1 – 1 Barcelona

Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Tottenham

Ajax v Bayern @Johan Cruijff Arena on Dec.12

Ajax are back in the knockout stage of the UCL for the first time in 12 years and have ambitions to finish as Group E winners even though five-time champions, Bayern Munich, will have one or two things to say.

Current Form: Ajax [W-W-W-W-W]; Bayern [W-W-L-W-W]

Head to head

02/10/18 UCL Bayern 1 – 1 Ajax

08/12/04 UCL Ajax 2 – 2 Bayern

27/09/04 UCL Bayern 4 – 0 Ajax

Prediction: Ajax 1-1 Bayern

Shakhtar Donetsk v Olympique Lyon @ Oblasny Sport Komplex on Dec.12

Second place is up for grabs in Group F in Kharkiv on Wednesday as Lyon hope to pinch at least a point off Shakhtar to qualify for the knockout stage. After a win and a draw against Manchester City, Bruno Genesio’s side will believe they are good enough to get the point they need in faraway Kharkiv.

Current Form: Shakhtar [W-D-W-D-W]; Lyon [L-D-D-W-W]

Head to head

Tue 02/10/18 UCL Lyon 2 – 2 Shakhtar

Sat 19/07/14 CLF Lyon 4 – 1 Shakhtar

Prediction: Shakhtar 1-2 Lyon

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