Reds run ragged in UCL opener (video)

Napoli vs Liverpool recap: The Reds conceded early and often, as they were beaten 4-1 in their UEFA Champions League group stage opener in Naples on Wednesday.

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Constant mistakes in midfield and defense saw Napoli win back possession far too high up the field, and far too often, which left Liverpool’s creaky defense under frequent pressure. Only now, after years of getting by by the skin of their teeth, Liverpool’s defense can no longer cope (more on that in a moment).

Napoli got goals from Piotr Zielinski (5th minute – penalty kick), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (31st), Giovanni Simeone (44th) and Zielinski again (47th), before Luis Diaz grabbed Liverpool’s consolation goal in the 49th.

Up next for Liverpool in the Champions League will be Ajax’s visit to Anfield next Tuesday, Sept. 13.

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What we learned from Napoli vs Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has a Virgil van Dijk-sized problem

… and it’s Virgil van Dijk. Since signing Van Dijk in January of 2017, Liverpool have always been exactly as good as Van Dijk was in a given season. Signed for $100 million, he became the best defender in the Premier League, and then the world, rather quickly. In his first two and a half seasons, Liverpool won the PL, won the Champions League and also finished as runners-up in Europe. Then he tore his ACL, missed 33 games, and Liverpool had to claw and scrape to a 4th-place finish. Van Dijk quickly returned to close to the full version of his former self, and Liverpool lost the title by one measly point. And now, 2022-23 is turning into a nightmare for the Dutchman, now 31 and showing the signs of rapid decline you’d expect from someone his age.

Something has to give. Either Van Dijk has to come out of the team against the PL and UCL’s elites, or Liverpool have to strike a vastly different balance between attacking/pressing freedom and defensive solidity. He is no longer the human eraser who can bail Liverpool out of two or three or four massive threats each game. The incredible blocks and sliding tackles have turned into more whiffs and penalty kicks than Liverpool’s margin of error can withstand.

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How to watch Napoli vs Liverpool live and start time

Date: Wednesday, September 7
Kick off time: 3pm ET
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: Tuesday, Paramount+

Key storylines

Liverpool are banging up from their bruising Merseyside derby draw at Everton on Saturday and this is their worst start to a Premier League season under Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have taken just nine points from a possible 18 so far and have lacked energy and just don’t look like themselves. The Champions League always seems to get the best out of them, though, as Liverpool have reached the final in three of the last six seasons, winning the competition once. But they have lost twice and drawn once in their four meetings with Napoli in the Champions League (the 2018-19 and 2019-20 group stages) and have lost on both of their previous trips to Naples without scoring a goal.

The lowdown on Napoli

Spaletti’s side have started the Serie A season in decent form given all of the changes over the summer as they sit second in the table with three wins and two draws from their opening five games. Losing Koulibaly, Insigne and Mertens was particularly tough as that trio were part of the furniture and had become legendary figures at the Italian club. New stars are emerging though as Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen have both been in fine form at the start of the season. Kim min-Jae, Koulibaly’s replacement, has already scored twice in Serie A and looks like a very good signing at center back. Mexico’s Hirving Lozano has trained ahead of the game after coming off in their win at Lazio following a nasty head collision. Osimhen has been nursing a knock but should be good to do.

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

Jurgen Klopp still has to contend with plenty of injuries, but at least Thiago Alcanatara is back in training, which is a huge boost. Captain Jordan Henderson is now out injured, joining fellow central midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita on the sidelines. Fabio Carvalho is nursing a dead leg following the draw at Everton, while Caoimhin Kelleher, Calvin Ramsey and Ibrahima Konate remain out. All of this means Liverpool will likely line up with James Milner, Harvey Elliott and Fabinho in midfield.

Napoli vs Liverpool: Reds run ragged in UCL opener (video) originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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