Ancelotti called the Reds “one of the strongest teams in Europe“, before the match in Naples on Wednesday. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has dismissed praise from Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti as “tactics” before the two sides’ Champions League Group C tie.
“I like Carlo Ancelotti. In Germany, we say he’s a smart fox,” said Klopp. “He’s said very positive things about us and nice things about me before a game. It’s nice, but it’s tactics. Carlo is so long in the business.”
The German added: “We’re ready for a real battle. “I don’t care too much for what people say about us or how they see our situation. This is a fantastic manager, a fantastic team and an emotional crowd so that will be a real challenge.”
Roberto Firmino scored an injury-time winner for Liverpool as they beat Paris St-Germain 3-2 in their Champions League opener, while Napoli drew 0-0 at Red Star Belgrade.
Klopp is expected to make a couple of changes to his side and one of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson or James Milner could make way for Naby Keita, who was only a substitute for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea.
Adam Lallana did not travel with the squad as he continues his rehabilitation from a groin problem. Liverpool, who lost 3-1 in May’s Champions League final to Real Madrid, are second in the Premier League. They started the season with seven successive wins in all competitions before a loss and draw against Chelsea in their past two matches.
Napoli came second in Serie A last season and are in the same position this campaign, six points behind leaders Juventus.
Ancelotti unhappy with referee choice
Ancelotti said he was surprised by the choice of Hungarian Viktor Kassai to referee the match. Kassai was in charge when Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich side lost 4-2 after extra-time to Real Madrid in a 2017 Champions League quarter-final second leg.
The official sent off Bayern midfielder Arturo Vidal for two bookable offences in the match, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored in extra-time from an offside position as Real Madrid won 6-3 on aggregate.
“The referee brings back bad memories for me relating to my last team,” said Ancelotti. “I’m surprised by the referee designation. A long time has passed and time usually heals certain things, but does not banish them.”
Klopp hoping to stay calm
Klopp was sent off on his last visit to Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo in 2013, when Borussia Dortmund manager, for berating the fourth official. He afterwards described his behaviour as “pathetic” and said he had made himself “look like a monkey”.
Asked about those memories, Klopp said: “It was not my best behaviour. Since then nothing happened any more, so it was my last time when I was a bit too excited.
“It was not nice sitting in the stand, getting all the comments, so I decided to watch the second half of the match from the groundsman’s room – with a big picture of Diego Maradona on the wall.”
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah scored 44 times in all competitions in 2017-18 but has only managed three in nine games so far in 2018-19. Klopp said “big talks” are not necessary with the Egyptian over his lack of goals.
“It is just a completely normal situation,” added Klopp. “It is absolutely easy to expect, if you don’t score in your first seven games 10 goals, then everybody asks if you can do it again. “Even Ian Rush didn’t score 40 goals in 10 seasons, season after season after season. That’s not how it works.
“You have to be a proper threat. As an offensive player, you have to work hard. At the end of the season, it depends how much success we have as a team if it is successful or not.”
- This will be only the third match played between Napoli and Liverpool in European competition, with them last facing off in the 2010-11 Europa League group stage.
- In the most recent competitive meeting between these two sides in November 2010, Liverpool won 3-1 at Anfield courtesy of a Steven Gerrard hat-trick. The only previous meeting in Naples finished goalless in October 2010.
- Napoli have only won twice in their past nine Champions League games (won two, drew one, lost six), although both of those victories came at home.
- Liverpool lost just one of their six away games in the Champions League last season (won three, drew two, lost one), netting an impressive 20 goals – the only other team to have scored as many away goals in a single Champions League campaign was Real Madrid in 2013-14 (also 20).
- Napoli failed to score last time out against Red Star Belgrade; it was only the third time in 29 Champions League games they have failed to find the back of the net.
- In the only previous Champions League tie between Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, the Italian’s Real Madrid side knocked Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund team out of the 2013-14 quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.
- Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in 18 goals in just 14 Champions League appearances for Liverpool (11 goals, seven assists).
- Dries Mertens has been directly involved in nine of Napoli’s last 14 Champions League goals at the Stadio San Paolo, scoring six and assisting three.
- Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in three goals in his past two starts against Napoli in all competitions (one goal, two assists), with these coming in Serie A while he was with Roma.
Source: BBC News