Luciano Spalletti says Napoli “will not be fooled” by Liverpool’s recent struggles, nor by Jurgen Klopp suggesting the Reds cannot register a clear victory to top their Champions League group.
Klopp’s side need to beat Napoli by four goals at Anfield on Tuesday to win Group A, having been beaten 4-1 by Napoli on matchday one in the reverse fixture before recovering with four successive wins.
While Liverpool progressed to the knockout stages with one game to spare, the Reds have struggled in the Premier League this season, sitting ninth in the table – around 15 points behind leaders Arsenal.
Klopp spelled out Napoli’s potential on Monday, suggesting a four-goal victory would be nigh on impossible as he backed the Serie A side to reach the final, although Spalletti took the praise with a pinch of salt.
“I think I read that he said they weren’t thinking about winning 4-0…I think he said it seriously,” the Napoli coach said jovially.
“If he said seriously that he couldn’t win 4-0 if he wanted to, let’s talk about it! Excessive compliments sometimes serve to lift you up and then crush you.
“[Klopp] made the last two Champions League finals, so he’s better than everyone, him and his team. We accept compliments if they are sincere, but compliments do not make results and rankings.
“We know the game will be very difficult. We will have to be the same as always, like in the first leg, and it is almost impossible to repeat this game.
“To finish first or second, everything changes, it seems stupid to answer whether we want to win or not – we came here with the best possible intentions.
“Then there’s a stage like Anfield, against those players there, and we’ll have to prove we’re up to it.”
Back-to-back domestic defeats to Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, between a European win over Ajax, raised more questions about Liverpool’s capabilities.
Spalletti refused to accept the Reds are a struggling side, suggesting their results belie Liverpool’s performance in recent weeks.
“Liverpool are a team in great form. Let’s not be fooled by the result of the last game, which I watched as well as the previous ones,” he added.
“I find Liverpool as always. It’s clear if they miss ten goals in front of the keeper and by chance everything goes wrong, like in their last game [against Leeds]a result can be questioned.
“But teams like Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, they have the best footballers in the world, here in the Premier League, and we come to play against them.”