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UEFA Champions League 2019-20: Cult hero Dries Mertens Napoli's X-Factor

22:05 GMT+3 23/11/2019
Mertens Salzburg Napoli Champions League
The Belgian striker was on target when Napoli defeated Liverpool earlier this season ...

Ask a football fan for a list of top five strikers in the world and it is very unlikely that Napoli marksman Dries Mertens will make the list. However, the Belgian has been revered as a cult hero among Napoli fans, and rightly so.

Mertens is a capable striker but it would be a stretch to mention him in the same bracket as Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, and Harry Kane. But his contributions for Napoli can’t be ignored. He has gone on to surpass club legend Diego Maradona's tally of 115 goals and remains second only to another Napoli legend in the form of Marek Hamsik. 

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have virtually booked their spot in the last-16 of the Champions League. A win against Liverpool on Wednesday can not only confirm this but also provide them with a massive advantage to finish on top of the group.

The city of Naples will hope that Mertens performs against the defending champions. Like he did in the reverse fixture at the San Paolo Stadium, he was always a thorn in the Liverpool defence. And he scored in the 82nd minute to provide his team with the advantage before Fernando Llorente scored in injury time to confirm the three points.

But Napoli could not afford to celebrate for too long, for they had to face an in-form Red Bull Salzburg in a few weeks. The Austrian side had thumped Genk 6-2 in their first game and pushed Liverpool to the brink in a seven-goal thriller in the second.

The 32-year-old made the difference yet again, scoring twice and assisting Lorenzo Insigne’s winner as Napoli emerged 3-2 winners.

However, it does not read well for the forward that he has not been involved in any goal ever since. Mertens’ last of the four goals he has scored in the Serie A arrived in September and he is currently nursing a goal drought of seven games across all competitions.

All points considered, Mertens is still Napoli’s best bet for a win at Anfield. His off-the-ball movement and link-up with fellow forwards will account for crucial weapons in Napoli’s armoury.

The Belgian will be up against the best defender in the world in Virgil van Dijk and must deliver nothing but his best performance of the season to take his team to victory.

Here's how to watch Liverpool v Napoli and other UEFA Champions League matches LIVE from SouthEast Asia