Bengaluru, September 16: Liverpool will begin the defence of their Champions League crown at the iconic Stadio San Paolo with Serie A giants Napoli hoping to spring another surprise.
The two European giants were grouped together last season also and Liverpool ended up being the champions of Europe for the sixth time and will hope that a similar fortune awaits them this season too.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men locked horns with the Reds in last season’s Champions League group stage and both games ended in 1-0 wins for the home side.
This time, the group is easier compared to the last season where PSG was also in the group and also topped the group. Napoli were unlucky to be knocked out from the group stage despite having same number of points to second-placed Liverpool i.e. nine points.
This time, the group consists of Red Bull Salzburg and Genk, both champions of their respective countries (Austria and Belgium) but the two sides will have a tough task in their hands to come up with a surprise and knock either of the two giants of Europe out from the group stage.
Here are three key battles those could decide the fate of the game:
Sadio Mane vs Giovanni Di Lorenzo
Giovanni Di Lorenzo will face one of the toughest battles in his career so far when he will come up against Sadio Mane of Liverpool who is enjoying the form of his life at the moment. The Senegalese has six goals to his name already this season in all competitions and will test Di Lorenzo on every opportunity. Di Lorenzo is among the best full-backs in Serie A but stopping Mane is a really tricky job due to his directness and trickeries. This individual battle could play a big role in deciding the outcome of the game.
Fabinho vs Fabian Ruiz
Fabian Ruiz, the highly-rated Napoli playmaker, has been linked recently with a move to Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp will be able to watch him closely once again for the second consecutive season. The Spaniard plays the most advanced role in Napoli midfield and Fabinho will surely have his eyes on the 23-year-old who is the key playmaker of the Naples side and is a great long-range shooter as well. Fabinho is right now one of the best in his role and him being at the top of his game will only be a bad news for Napoli.
Dries Mertens vs Virgil van Dijk
Dries Mertens began his seventh consecutive season at Napoli with doubts regarding his long-term future but once the season has kicked in, he has shown that he is still fully committed to the club with three goals in three games already. He proved to be a tricky customer for Liverpool in their previous meetings and boss Carlo Ancelotti is expected to field him as part of a two-man attack with new boy Hirving Lozano likely to be his partner. However, against Virgil van Dijk, very few attackers have been effective and Liverpool will hope that van Dijk is decisive enough to stop the pacey attacking duo of Napoli.