Creativity, trickery and more – This £13m ace holds the key to Liverpool’s success against Napoli in the Champions League


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Xherdan Shaqiri holds the key to Liverpool’s success against Napoli

Liverpool should be high on confidence heading into the final group game of the UEFA Champions League against Napoli on Tuesday after an emphatic 4-0 victory over Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday.

With Liverpool drawn alongside PSG and Napoli, Group C was expected to be the group of death as all the three teams had a realistic chance of making it to the knockout stages. And Red Star Belgrade’s shocking win over Liverpool on Matchday 4 made things all the more interesting.

Well, things have turned out as expected and the race for qualification to the knockout stages has gone down to the wire. Liverpool go into the final game of the group stages knowing that they have their fate in their own hands.

While a 1-0 win or a victory by the margin of two-clear goals will be enough to see the Reds progress to the Round of 16, any result other than that will see Napoli progress to the next round on virtue of a better head-to-head record.  As things stand, all the three teams have a chance of making it to the knockout stages and it is a do-or-die encounter for Liverpool.

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Liverpool and Napoli have met on four occasions previously, most recently in October when Lorenzo Insigne’s last-minute winner handed the Italians a 1-0 win.

The Reds were completely outplayed by Carlo Ancelotti’s men back in the reverse fixture in October and the lack of creativity in the midfield was the major cause of their undoing. Liverpool couldn’t get any control over the proceedings in the middle of the park as Napoli created plenty of opportunities. They had as many as 14 attempts and it was largely due to the heroics of Alisson between the sticks that the Reds were able to come away with a 1-0 scoreline.

With Liverpool in need of a win on Tuesday, one can expect Jurgen Klopp to field an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, which would give them the luxury of having an extra man in midfield. Liverpool looked clueless in the middle of the park and lacked cohesion in the final third in that 2-1 defeat at the hands of PSG in the last game and someone like Xherdan Shaqiri can bring in a lot to the team in terms of creativity.

Shaqiri has played down the right with Roberto Firmino through the centre whenever Klopp has opted for a 4-2-3-1 in the Premier League. The manager has been somewhat hesitant to come out of his favoured 4-3-3 in the Champions League but it will be a risk worth taking to break down a well-organised Napoli unit.

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The Swiss international has become one of the first names on Klopp’s teamsheet in the Premier League in recent weeks and has contributed greatly to the creative play up front. He is always a tricky customer and has the ability to outsmart the opposition with numerous tricks up his sleeve. Not only does he have the ability to create chances by playing the ball off the ground but he can also prove to be a handful for the opposition with his trickery and sudden bursts of pace.

Mohamed Salah netted his second hat-trick of the season against Bournemouth and Liverpool can look forward to brighter things with their in-form talisman up front but he will need the supply to deliver the goods against Napoli on Tuesday.

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In all honesty, Firmino hasn’t hit top gear this season and Liverpool should rely on Xherdan Shaqiri to feed Mohamed Salah in the all-important Champions League fixture on Tuesday night.

That said, the Swiss international can well prove to be the difference between the two sides and Klopp should definitely take the risk of fielding him in the starting eleven.

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