Wednesday October 3 2018
Classic Carletto

Rumours of Carlo Ancelotti’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi, as his Napoli delivered a tactical masterclass to beat Liverpool.

If you ever needed proof that pre-season friendlies don’t matter much, then this was it. Liverpool wiped the floor with Napoli this summer with a result that was a springboard to an undefeated start to Premier League and Champions League business. But Carlo Ancelotti did not build his reputation on such meaningless encounters. When it really counted he - and his team - did the business yet again.

Be honest, most of us were puzzled by some of his choices to tackle one of Europe’s most in-form sides. No red hot Piotr Zielinski? A starting spot for Fabian Ruiz? Dries Mertens kicking his heels on the bench once more? If nothing else, he’s made guessing the starting XI a whole lot tougher than Maurizio Sarri ever did.

But boy did he get it right with an impeccable display where everything worked to pretty much perfection. Shackle Mo Salah? No problem. Marginalise Sadio Mane? Job done. Beat one of the world’s most expensive goalkeepers? Leave it to Lorenzo the Magnificent.

This was a masterclass which looked, for a long time, like delivering only the performance Ancelotti would have hoped for but not the result. The Azzurri were on the front foot for most of the game but when Dries Mertens cracked a strike off the crossbar late in the game it looked like it would not be their night. It took little Insigne - that man most unpronounceable for UK commentators - to deliver justice.

Make no mistake, the Partenopei were worthy winners as Carletto got one over on Jurgen Klopp - for the time being at least. The German’s trophy count would represent no more than an appetiser for the silverware-hungry Italian. The future may well belong to the Liverpool manager but, for a night at least, he had to bow down before the man with the most famous eyebrows in the game. UEFA’s stats said the side from Anfield failed to muster a single shot on target over 90 minutes.

That has to be a first for a team that has made scoring look simplicity itself this season and boasts the kind of attacking power that has many opponents in England defeated before they even start.

The Napoli Coach was keen to play down the game beforehand as not being make or break but, after mustering just a draw in their opener, he was fooling nobody. A double header against another free-scoring and even bigger spending side in the shape of Paris Saint Germain means the Serie A outfit desperately needed three points from this clash. It may not, of course, be enough to see them through but at least it gave them a fighting chance.

Much has been made of the new approach Ancelotti has brought to the San Paolo - a little less hard-line, a little more flexible than the previous incumbent. It hasn’t always worked perfectly but it certainly all clicked for him in this vital Champions League tie. His track record in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and England speaks for itself. Now it is starting to make itself heard in Campania too.

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Have your say...
@Maldini's Heir
That's an interesting take, especially comparisons to Messi.
As of right now, the highest priority is Insigne, and so far that's working out well. Should Mertens be given the same game time or more is up to Ancelotti. I just wanted to emphasise that he was Sarri's plan D, after Higuain left and Milik's long term injuries plus Gabbiadini failing to impress. Eventually, Sarri had him as his target man and it's all for the best, but Ancelotti might not see the same value in him.
on the 7th October, 2018 at 9:10pm
@ Good for Napoli and Really? I'm sure Martens will score 18 goals this season or maybe even 28 like in 16/17 when he became the first Napoli player in 30 years to score 4 goals in a single game. I'm sure he's playing at that level now, you know, coming off the bench and being rested every second game. I mean look at Messi, he's only played 573 games in 15 seasons or 38 games per season. In Serie A players cannot possibly play that number of games. Best to rest their little legs. (Sarcasm alert)
on the 5th October, 2018 at 2:53am
I must admit i expected Liverpool to win this one but Carlo did what i had hoped for and he did it in style. Great win for Napoli!! From a Juve Fan!!
on the 5th October, 2018 at 2:46am
Ancelotti's experiment worried me but he got it spot on.
Napoli played an in form Liverpool team off the park and it would have been a total shame to end 0-0.

More strong performances will be needed in this group.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 9:51pm
Well done Napoli. It's great 2 c Italian clubs impressing in the CL again! It's still 2 early 2 tell but there does seem 2 b some growth in Italy atm. Youth is being given a chance. Clubs seem 2 b growing in a sporting n economic sense. I just hope this confidence continues 2 gain momentum n Italian clubs do up their Stadia or build new ones as great n distinctive as the old ones only better suited to football. Italy has talent in every regard if only it can b managed effectively by the FIGC!
on the 4th October, 2018 at 9:27pm
So what's the excuse now? English media are even talking about Liverpool players being fatigued after 4 games in the previous 12 days. Like Napoli did not play the same number of games as Liverpool during that time - didn't even have the luxury of resting 8 players like Liverpool did in the Carabao cup. The only reason PL clubs do well in Europe is because teams allow them to dictate the game. When PL teams have to deal with sustained pressure from opposition, they almost always crumble.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 11:00am
@Maldini's Heir
Mertens was on the bench for Sarri too, until Higuain left and Milik got injured. Besides, Mertens started against Juve.

Italian teams and not just Juve finally having a European presence is good. Napoli especially look better in CL than under Sarri. Still, it's only the 2nd round, and for Inter especially 2 wins didn't come without difficulty.

Enjoy for now. 3/4 top of their groups is a great thing, and Roma might jump above Real.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 10:55am
What are you talking about Maldini's heir? Mertens changed the game last night. He has been pretty much on the same level as he was before with Sarri. The only difference is he's not a sure starter anymore due to Milik being healthy and that's not really a bad thing. That just means Napoli have multiple world class choices. Last season Callejon-Mertens-Insigne had no subs whatsoever, now they have Mertens and Verdi. Napoli easily have one of the best attacking options in all of Europe.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 10:49am
LOLOLOLOLOL! You clearly don't know what a master class is.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 8:42am
I admit Napoli are doing better than I expected. I didn't think they were a good enough team for Ancelotti. He's used to working with the best players and Napoli's squad is not that. The secret to Napoli's recent success was Sarri. But now he's gone they've shown themselves to be pretty decent. However Mertens is an example of a player who, for Sarri, was world class, and for Ancelotti, is on the bench. Another example of how the manager can make all of the difference with players.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 7:45am
Napoli beat a side which couldn't string 3-passes in the opponent's final 1/3rd. Liverpool aren't used to pushing for top honors on all-fronts, so they're getting spread wafer-thin especially due to the out-of-form Salah.

Jim Beglin pointed out on BT Sports that IF Napoli can get to the Round of 16 Ancelotti would've done wonders... I agree with this. Of course, experience says otherwise...

PS: Is it just me/mobile site but does the article's have horrible formatting?
on the 4th October, 2018 at 5:36am
BOSS Where are you?

BOSS Where are you?

BOSS Where are you?

BOSS was slagging off Serie A teams against epl sides in meaningless friendlies during the summer.

2 games, 2 defeats for the great hyped in actual real games.
on the 4th October, 2018 at 2:38am

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