Allen Hamilton

What: UEFA Europa League – Group K
Who: Napoli (3rd; 2 points) vs Liverpool (1st; 4 points)
When: Thursday 21st October, 2010, at 18:00 UK time
Where: San Paolo, Naples, Italy

Eyeing a Famous Victory

Although Napoli remain far behind their achievements when a certain Diego Maradona ruled the San Paolo, they have taken great strides in recent seasons. From 12th in the 2008/09 campaign to sixth last season, Napoli are expected to soon be knocking on the door for Champions League qualification. President Aurelio De Laurentiis, a well-known Italian film producer, has great plans for the club and is media savvy, having seen transfers stall and even collapse due to his stance on acquiring players’ image rights.

This past summer De Laurentiis delivered Napoli fans a coup with the signing of Uruguayan World Cup star Edinson Cavani from Palermo, who has settled in well, scoring four goals in his last four games. Napoli would see beating Liverpool as a famous victory, with defender Paolo Cannavaro stating they will not "be fooled by the position of Liverpool in the Premier League."

Another Chance to Bounce Back?

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson was hoping that, after new owners arrived at Anfield, his side could go and win the Merseyside derby at Everton. "The dream was we would come here on the back of new owners and win the game, but there is no point in attempting to analyse dreams", said Hodgson after his side were beaten 2-0. But, despite sitting second from bottom in the Premier League, the former Fulham manager does feel things are picking up at Anfield, and a tough Europa League match away to Napoli could be the perfect opportunity for the Reds to bounce back. "I watched the performance and the second half was as good as I saw a Liverpool team play under my management, that’s for sure", Hodgson stated after the Everton game.

However, while Liverpool would welcome the chance to record an overdue win, the truth is that the Europa League, having already stated down Hodgson’s list of priorities, will have slipped even further in the face of alarming league form. The need to arrest a domestic slump must now be his primary concern, a fact Hodgson confirmed: "I’ll leave some players out, that’s for sure. Some of the more important senior players won’t travel because their participation on Sunday [against Blackburn] is going to be so important to us."


Recent form

Steaua Bucharest 3-3 Napoli (30/09; Europa League)
Napoli 2-0 Roma (03/10; Serie A)
Catania 1-1 Napoli (17/10; Serie A)

FC Utrecht 0-0 Liverpool (30/09; Europa League)
Liverpool 1-2 Blackpool (03/10; Premier League)
Everton 2-0 Liverpool (17/10; Premier League)

Key absences

Napoli: Cristiano Lucarelli

Liverpool: Glen Johnson; Daniel Agger; Dirk Kuyt

Players to watch

Napoli – Marek Hamsik: The spiky haired midfielder has made Europe’s top clubs sit up and take notice over the past 18 months, and not without good reason. On his day, Hamsik is capable of unlocking defences and also getting forward to be a real goal threat. Dangerous whenever he gets the ball, Liverpool must not let Hamsik begin to dictate the midfield and play between the lines.

Liverpool – David N’Gog: The young French striker has carried Liverpool’s Europa League hopes on his shoulders since they began in the early qualification rounds. In fact, N’Gog has bagged five goals in five Europa League starts this season and has played a vital role in the absence at first, and then lack of match fitness afterwards, of Fernando Torres. N’Gog must take his chances in Italy.

Match prediction

Liverpool may have new owners, but they come into this game low on confidence and struggling. Their cause will not be helped by Roy Hodgson’s likely resting of key players as the Premier League takes precedence. Napoli view this as an opportunity to record a famous victory and take down a well-known European name. It is likely they can succeed and a 2-0 win to the Serie A side could well be the end result.