Tuesday night in Liverpool's Anfield stadium, Napoli's suffered a setback on the season. For Napoli, the Group C qualification was wacky business, a win or draw would automatically put Napoli through the round of 16. This match would become a physical battle, and would not go Napoli's way. An exciting Champions League season abruptly ended 1-0 after a promising campaign. This match was the one and only loss they suffered in group play but unfortunately, it was the loss that mattered.
Ancelotti stuck with a 4-4-2, but again we saw 4-3-3 while defending, attempting to get the high press.
After a week of rest for Ospina, he got the start. For Ospina, he knew going in that this match would not be easy. Playing in Anfield, plus going up against a revitalized attack for Liverpool. Ospina Would receive pressure early and often but overall played a good matchmaking a couple of key saves. The one and only goal was a bad adjustment by him, but Salah had a clear window for a shot, bad coverage by the defense.
The defense had the most difficult time in this match and was under pressure all match long. Mario Rui continues to be the achilles heel of the backline, as he was picked on all night by Salah and Alexander-Arnold, he was the victim of the Salah Goal in the 34th minute. Koulibaly was put on an island but played very well as always. Albiol also had a difficult job manning the central defense while Koulibaly took care of the left side. Maksimovic had his poorest performance of the season, Andrew Robertson was able to beat him on the flank a couple times. Liverpool fullbacks coming up on the attack was difficult for Napoli to stop while focusing on the star players they get in the box. Ancelotti subbed in Ghoulam in the 70th minute, which was the right move but was too late….
Midfield played poorly as well. There is no secret to Liverpool, we know their attack starts with the midfield winning the battle of the midfield. Fabian had his worse performance as a member of Napoli, couldn't get as many opportunities and when he did he did not capitalize. Hamsik also had back to back bad matches, one has to wonder of course how much left he has. Allan was again a defensive presence in the midfield and played well. Callejón struggled yet again, he couldn't take advantage of his chances either. Zielinski subbed in the 62nd minute for Fabian Ruiz.
This dynamic duo was shut down all match. Liverpool crowded the central defense not giving these two much chance to get opportunities, which was brilliant on their part. Napoli was in need of strong center forward to add a presence in the box, with all the space out wide. Ancelotti decided to sub in Arkadiusz Milik too late, as he came in the 70th minute, but was what Napoli needed.
For Napoli, to put it simply they were outplayed and out managed. Liverpool's Jürgen Klopp knew what adjustments he needed to make from the first match down in Napoli, exploiting their weaknesses. Liverpool was more physical and seem to be more comfortable, as the Anfield advantage was key. For Napoli, the European road takes a detour, The Champions League is over, and in the new year, Napoli has qualified for Europa league. For sure a consolation prize, but it's important Ancelotti gets his squad prepared for Europa league, winning this tournament is a great building block to build confidence in this group. Napoli Will be back Sunday in Serie A play, as they face Cagliari.