The formula for Liverpool to qualify from Champions League Group C is complicated but one thing is clear - this is a far-improved Reds team from the one that played out a thrilling two-legged affair with Roma in the semi-finals of last season’s competition. Their European results may have been inconsistent but domestically, Jurgen Klopp’s side have made themselves the team to beat.
Quite how Liverpool can overtake the might of Manchester City to lead the Premier League, yet be facing a do-or-die fixture with Napoli is something even Klopp might struggle to explain, but Liverpool fans, starved of domestic success since a 1991 title win, would probably be ecstatic if the season ended tomorrow as it is now. But it won’t, and bowing out of the Champions League at the group stage the season after reaching the final would be a painful experience.
With the Champions League odds for Liverpool-Napoli given by 888 Sport, the Reds are 13/20 to emerge with a win in tonight's match, but even that may not be enough. If they concede and Paris Saint-Germain win in Belgrade, Liverpool need to win by two clear goals at Anfield.
Liverpool’s defeat to Napoli earlier in the competition, by virtue of a late Lorenzo Insigne goal, came during a run of four difficult fixtures, and the Merseyside club didn’t win any of them. They lost to Chelsea in the League Cup then drew with the Blues at Stamford Bridge, and days after defeat in Naples, held Manchester City to a draw at Anfield. The only games Liverpool have lost since then have come in the Champions League, against Crvena Zvezda and Paris Saint-Germain. Save for a 1-1 draw at Arsenal, Liverpool haven’t dropped Premier League points since early October.
And yet it was still something of a surprise to see them climb into first place in the League table, City’s form having been so imperious. Liverpool though kept on the coattails of Pep Guardiola’s team and were ready and waiting for when the champions didn’t win. The clubs meet again in early January and with a respective five and six point gap to third place Tottenham Hotspur, it’s not a stretch to suggest that could be the title decider, even with a few months left of the season.
The Premier League is generally split into four groups - title contenders Liverpool and City and top four hopefuls Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal lead the way. Five points then separate Manchester United in sixth and Brighton in 13th, and the Seagulls have a seven-point cushion Cardiff below them, the Welsh club signalling the first of the relegation strugglers. Liverpool are top of a very tight Division.
As Klopp’s side go unbeaten domestically, so do Napoli in the Champions League. Thus far unable to replicate his side’s League form in Europe, the German finds himself overseeing what has the potential to be one of those famous nights at Anfield - under the lights, in a win-or-bust situation. Buoyed by going top of the table on Saturday, this could be a banner few days for Liverpool.