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Klopp not taking 'cheeky b*stards' Napoli lightly as Liverpool kick-off European defence

5:30 PM EDT 9/16/19
Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2019-20
The Reds return to Naples one year on from a 1-0 defeat in the Champions League group stages, with their German manager keen to avoid a similar result

Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool’s status as European champions will count for nothing as they get their Champions League campaign underway against "cheeky b*stards" Napoli on Tuesday.

The Reds will travel to the San Paolo for the second successive season, having visited last October. 

That game ended in a 1-0 victory for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, with Lorenzo Insigne scoring a last-minute winner on a night to forget for Klopp’s men.

Liverpool would have the last laugh, reversing the scoreline when the sides met at Anfield in December and going onto lift the trophy by beating Tottenham in the final in Madrid six months later.

Klopp, though, is wary of the threat the Italians pose. He has not forgotten how poorly his side played here last season, and says his side do not go into Tuesday’s game as favourites.

“We talk a lot about intensity,” he said. “The Napoli game last season was not intensity. It was an organisation problem. 

“We were just not… all the things we do, all the things we tell the boys, it is all about intensity and how much we have to invest, but before that it is all about information, what do you have to do in these moments? 

“And Napoli plays a specific style. To make it very simple, we played against them in our defending like they had one No.6 but they had two sixes, the cheeky bastards! 

“We knew before [the game]. We told them they had two sixes, but then everyone came too late and that was when it started. We tried to change it in the game and nobody listened and nobody could change. In the end they were lucky they scored [a late goal] but we were lucky it was only 1-0. It was really this kind of off day.”

Asked about whether he will change his approach this year, Klopp said: “We have to invest whatever we have. We cannot play against Napoli deep in your own half, that doesn’t work.

“So we have to do what we are good at but make sure it fits for Napoli and then we have that chance there but we don’t go there as a favourite. 

“Yes, we won the competition last season but you know it is difficult. They are a very strong side, runner up of Italy two or three years in a row, really close to Juventus this year so it is a really strong team. 

“I try to focus constantly on the next opponent two days out, absolutely enough now to try now preparing Napoli this year because we are all different and they are different to last year, not too much but enough to have a view on it.”

Klopp was asked after Saturday’s win over Newcastle whether he and his players still had the same burning desire for Champions League football this season, having won in Madrid back in June.

The German laughed at the question, and ahead of Tuesday’s game he reiterated his desire to compete for every competition – and says his players are as motivated as ever to bring success to Anfield.

“I do not know the last time I thought about winning the Champions League without being asked about it,” he smiled. “It must be months ago. I don’t wake up and think about this. The last time I was on holiday!

“Nothing has changed for me. I was self-confident before. I have never had an issue with self-confidence. For the boys, they are young people and they feel they have things to prove. Not to me. To the outside world, to go for the next one. 

“And the competition in this team is really big, yes. If that line-up is not performing, they are really there. As an example, Shaq [Xherdan Shaqiri] is brought in in that position where he has been training for a couple of weeks now. He is so creative. He is a real option.

“If you have one good game and another good game, the dynamic changes. Dejan Lovren is not in the squad and I have no explanation for that other than two centre-halves on the bench is probably not necessary. Naby Keita is coming, everyone knows that. 

“When Ox [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] played really well at Southampton, for the all others it was ‘ooh’, but you should see training. They all want to make sure, ‘I am ready, you can use me’. 

“This is a really big club with competition between friends. It is not I have to kill him to play, it is really for the team. That is what the boys did so far and as long as we have that we will go for everything. Then we have to see what we get because we have really good opponents and that is the problem.”

Liverpool will assess the fitness of Andy Robertson, who suffered a kick to his knee against Newcastle. The Scot has travelled to Naples but James Milner is on standby to deputise at left-back if needed.

Divock Origi has missed the trip after being forced off with an ankle injury at the weekend, with teenage star Rhian Brewster in line to replace the Belgian on the bench. Brewster, 19, is yet to make his senior debut for the Reds.