Rafa BenÝtez in 'The Times': Liverpool need confidence and Napoli look like contenders

Rafa Benítez, who managed both sides, looks ahead to the tie

01/11/2022Rafa BenÝtez/ The Times

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Keep the intensity

Liverpool must beat Napoli by four goals to claim top spot in group A, and the league game against Tottenham Hotspur is important after recent results. However, I would go to win this game, rather than looking to the weekend, to try to get confidence back.

Jürgen Klopp can maybe make three or four changes to the starting line-up — but no more or you risk losing intensity. Then he can start thinking about more changes at halftime or 60 minutes if the result needed to finish first is unlikely. But winning is good for morale and Liverpool need that at the moment.

I am not as pessimistic about their prospects as everyone else. This is not a normal season. They have had injuries, the World Cup is a distraction, but they have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League and they remain a very strong team.

Mind the gaps

Confidence is so important because what Liverpool have lost, their rivals have also gained. Opponents know how to play against them and are prepared for that. Under Klopp, the fullbacks go high, they overlap and they put crosses in and create assists. Liverpool’s style is to play with a highline. So the space is behind and every team knows that.

Napoli were one ofthe first to show this with their 4-1 win in the first group match. They avoided the first line of pressing and caused Liverpool problems in the wide areas which are usually a strength under Klopp.

Support Fabinho

Fabinho is a player who needs solutions around him. He is not like Thiago Alcántara who can pass to his left, right, in front or wherever because he can see all these things.The solutions are having players around Fabinho in the right positions so he can give them the ball. If this happens then he will make fewer mistakes. He needs a bit of belief at the moment, but he is still a great player.

When Klopp is changing the team as he is now, it is because he knows something is not right. He has tried to fix the problems by going from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 and, recently, he has played a “diamond” with Roberto Firmino behind Mohamed Salah and Darwin Núñez.

At the moment, other teams are pushing and pressing Liverpool. When this happens, Fabinho has more problems if he does not have two or three options available.

Napoli are contendersImagen

I have a lot of respect for Napoli’s head coach, Luciano Spalletti.What is impressive about the club under him and the owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis, is that they have sold players — Kalidou Koulibaly, Fabián Ruiz, Jorginho and going further back Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuaín — but bought well. I was aware of the South Korean defender Kim Min-jae from my time in China and he is a good signing, Victor Osimhen is a key player and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has been one of the surprises of the season. Napoli are unbeaten this season and they are one of the contenders to win the Champions League.