Champions League: Liverpool turns to Salah to summon Gerrard's spirit for Napoli showdown

Liverpool will most likely even have to win by two goals if it concedes due to Napoli's 1-0 triumph when the sides last met in September.

Champions League: Liverpool turns to Salah to summon Gerrard's spirit for Napoli showdown

Liverpool must again rely on fortress Anfield to inflict Napoli's first Champions League defeat of the season if it is to avoid the disappointment of a group stage exit just over six months since appearing in last season's final.

The five-time European champion will most likely even have to win by two goals if it concedes due to Napoli's 1-0 triumph when the sides last met in September.

Yet, such a scenario is nothing new for Liverpool and even rekindles fond memories of similar permutations when it hosted Olympiakos in the final Champions League group game of the 2004/05 season.

Brazilian legend Rivaldo's early free-kick left the host needing three goals, which it got in dramatic fashion in the second half as Steven Gerrard's spectacular strike sealed a famous 3-1 win four minutes from time.

Inspired by Gerrard, the Reds went on to win their last Champions League title that season with a far inferior squad to the one that is off to a club record unbeaten start and top of the Premier League after 16 games.

Read: Klopp calls for electric Anfield atmosphere against Napoli

Overcome the huge challenge facing it in midweek and Liverpool will again be among the favourites to lift the Champions League in Madrid next June.

However, in stark contrast to its consistency in the Premier League, Jurgen Klopp's men have lost three of their five European encounters in Group C to put their chances of reaching the last-16 in serious peril.

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Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring to make it 3-1 against Olympiakos.   -  AFP

 

There is some comfort for Klopp that all three defeats came on the road to Napoli, Red Star Belgrade and Paris Saint-Germain, while Liverpool hasn't lost in 18 European games at Anfield.

The German coach also isn't as reliant on an individual figure for inspiration as Rafael Benitez's vintage 14 years ago were on Gerrard.

The signings of centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker over the past year have drastically improved Liverpool's defensive record.

'Back to his best'

But the focus will be on Mohamed Salah to produce the goods up front after looking more like the player that scored 44 goals in his debut campaign at Anfield with a hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday.

Liverpool rode the free-scoring form of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who each scored 10 Champions League goals, to reach last season's final.

Salah's weekend treble took his tally for the season to 12, but the Egyptian's only two goals in the Champions League came in a routine 4-0 win over Red Star in October.

“(He was) back to his best, he has been really good this season. He has probably been a bit frustrated with himself but that just shows you the high standards he has got,” insisted Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson after Salah's magical display on England's south coast.

Mohamed Salah scored his first hat-trick of the season against Bournemouth at the weekend.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

“Whatever you do in a football game, you need someone to finish it off,” added Klopp.

“What Mo did around his two goals in the second half was just exceptional. I don't know at the moment a lot of players who would have scored these two goals.”

Against a Napoli side that has only failed to score in three games this season, Liverpool may well need another two or more from Salah or another source to avoid a big European night at Anfield falling flat.