Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live commentary of this evening's pre-season friendly between Napoli and Liverpool
So the EFL season is already underway but the Premier League has one more week to go before its return, so there is still time for clubs to fine-tune their preparations, and today in Dublin we'll see Jurgen Klopp's charges in action against last season's Serie A runners-up, led by the iconic Carlo Ancelotti
We have the team news at hand so let's reveal who makes up the two respective starting XIs and substitutes' bench before going through the key aspects...
LIVERPOOL STARTING XI: Alisson, Clyne, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita, Salah, Mane, Firmino
NAPOLI STARTING XI: Karnezis, Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Luperto, Allan, Hamsik, Fabian, Callejon, Milik, Insigne
So the big news as far as Liverpool are concerned is that new recruit Alisson Becker
, the most expensive goalkeeper in the world after being signed from Roma for around £67m a fortnight ago, makes his first appearance for his new club, with Klopp giving the Brazil international a starting spot following his post-World Cup break.
Alisson's compatriot Roberto Firmino also makes his first start for Liverpool in 2018-19 after resuming training last week, while Ragnar Klavan is out due to a minor hamstring strain.
Marko Grujic, Danny Ings, Adam Lallana and Joel Matip were declared as unavailable for the game by their club on Friday, while World Cup semi-finalists Jordan Henderson, Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren are all yet to return to training, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who returned to club duty earlier, is on the bench.
Klopp has named a strong starting XI for the occasion, with a back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson; a midfield of Georginio Wijnaldum
, James Milner
and Naby Keita; and the famed attacking trident of Mohamed Salah
, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
LIVERPOOL SUBS: Karius, Fabinho, Sturridge, Moreno, Shaqiri, Origi, Solanke, Phillips, Jones, Kelleher, Camacho, Alexander-Arnold
The Reds bench features the aforementioned Alexander-Arnold and many of the other usual suspects that are likely to be used as rotational players and back-up, with two of the new signings - Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri - hoping to play some part at some point in the encounter.
Napoli, meanwhile, have also picked a strong squad, but Ancelotti has had to make do without key players Faouzi Ghoulam, Dries Mertens, Alex Meret e Piotr Zielinski.
There are some familiar names in the Napoli line-up, including Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne, both of whom have been on the radar of several Premier League clubs in the past.
Napoli were impressive last season, pushing Juventus all the way for the Scudetto before coming undone right at the end of the campaign, and even though they have parted ways with Maurizio Sarri and lost Jorginho, both now at Chelsea, much has been pinned on Ancelotti, one of the game's most successful managers of modern times, to spearhead another challenge.
Indeed, the Partenopei have broken their record Serie A points tally in each of the last three seasons and have twice finished as runners-up behind Juve in that time - tonight marks their first big test of pre-season ahead of their return to domestic league action on August 18, away at Lazio.
It promises to be an exciting Serie A season in 2018-19, what with AC Milan having made several smart acquisitions this summer after a change in ownership that appears to have steadied their ship, Juventus signing Cristiano Ronaldo, and the other titans of Italy never to be ruled out - so can Napoli build on their sterling work so far and finally push for the title?
But let's cast our eyes back onto Liverpool - they go into this game fresh off a 4-1 hammering of bitter rivals Manchester United in Michigan, with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah already looking sharp despite joining up with the squad in late July following their post-World Cup holiday.
The Reds have played seven games over the past four weeks, beginning with a 7-0 hammering of Chester before beating Tranmere Rovers 3-2. Then came a 0-0 stalemate with Bury and a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers before embarking on International Champions Cup action.
Over in the United States, Liverpool began with a 3-1 defeat against Klopp's old employers Borussia Dortmund, but rebounded with a 2-1 win over Manchester City and the impressive 4-1 triumph over the Red Devils.
This evening's friendly is Liverpool's penultimate pre-season encounter - on Tuesday the Reds then take on another Italian side, Torino, in what is actually their first and only game at Anfield in the 2018-19 pre-season programme.
And then, it begins once again, the Premier League will be back, and Liverpool will be one of the early favourites to mount a title challenge following their high-profile summer acquisitions to bolster what was already a good squad which boasted one of the best attacking tridents in world football. West Ham are up first and they travel to Merseyside for the occasion, with kickoff on Sunday, August 12 at 1:30pm BST.
Jurgen Klopp has just provided some information on his team selection for today's game - here is what he has told the official Liverpool website...
"Naby didn't play two or three games, Gini didn't play a lot of games – so they start today. Yesterday, Ragnar Klavan had a little – but enough – muscle thing, he cannot play. So Trent will have his first minutes today as well, not from the start. We still test things, we still try things but we have one week more to find the line-up for West Ham and that's the most important thing."
He has also spoken about new signing Alisson, telling reporters: "He has looked really good. He is more a thinker than speaker but I speak enough already, so that's okay! We have to work together today. Today is not a test; we decided already that he is a world-class goalkeeper, that's why we brought him in. Now let's play football together."
Earlier today, Liverpool confirmed that Alisson will wear squad number 13 - 'A. Becker 13' on his back, to be exact - but this is just a provisional number, with Klopp set to decide the final squad number list at a later date.
SCORE PREDICTION: We have just 10 minutes to go until we're underway in Dublin, so it's time for me to have a go at predicting the outcome of the game. With Liverpool boasting a strong team which has played seven games so far this pre-season and backed by a partisan crowd in the Irish capital, I fancy them to have just a bit too much for Napoli, who have only played a handful of games against lesser Italian opponents over July, and have a new manager on board who may need a little more time to find his winning combination - so for me, it's Liverpool 3-1 Napoli.
Just another reminder of the team news for both sides...
Here is an excerpt of an interview with Wijnaldum as we look ahead to kickoff - he told the Liverpool website: "I'm very happy to be back. It was a really frustrating time for me - I've had a few small injuries - since we came to France I am fit."
An estimated 50,000 red shirts are in attendance at the Aviva in what is a lovely evening weather-wise and atmosphere-wise in Dublin... kickoff is immiment now.
Liverpool are wearing their deep purple away kit while Napoli are in their usual blue.
KICKOFF: One final, intense rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone, and now we're underway in Dublin!
The Reds already on the front foot this early on in the game as Liverpool inside the first minute as Milner attempts to dink the ball into the path of Firmino in the box, but Koulibaly comes across to cut the danger out.
GOAL! NAPOLI 0-1 LIVERPOOL (JAMES MILNER)
What a sensational start by Liverpool and what a goal from that man James Milner! Napoli have barely had a touch so far in the game, now they're having to pick the ball out of their net as Clyne and Mane combine to set Milner up on the edge of the box, ferocious left-footed strike, and the Reds are one up after just four minutes!
Every time Alisson touches the ball, he gets a rapturous reception from the "home" faithful, but he does end up nudging the ball out of play for a Napoli throw-in on that occasion.
CHANCE! Liverpool are caught napping at the back as Insigne latches on to a ball over the top, and even though the Italian is onside, Alisson is quickly off his line to put the forward off as a skied lob over the bar puts an end to the danger.
GOAL! NAPOLI 0-2 LIVERPOOL (GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM)
We've only just ticked over the 10-minute mark in this game and already Liverpool are two up, this time courtesy of poor goalkeeping from Orestis Karnezis - Milner turns provider with a whipped cross from the left wing which Georginio Wijnaldum nods into the back of the net after the Greek stopper's half-hearted attempt to gather in the six-yard box!
I mentioned earlier how Napoli were likely to be less match-ready as they've played fewer pre-season games prior to this one, what with their Serie A season starting later, and indeed they look a fair bit rustier than Liverpool, who have seven games already under their belt to the Partenopei's three, in these early stages.
A half-hearted attempt by Insigne to threaten Alisson proves a damp squib as his 25-yard snap-shot sails harmlessly over the bar.
Now Koulibaly gives away possession inside his own half, which Liverpool waste no time in using to launch a counterattack, but Milner's delivery from the right is cleared by the Italians.
Robertson and Keita combine expertly down the left as the new signing picks up a ball delivered down the channel and crosses low to the edge of the box, only for Hamsik to charge the delivery down.
Alisson cheered once again as the ball arrives to his feet, soon after another Liverpool attack is underway as Robertson seeks to find Salah with a lofted ball over the top, but it's too heavy and Karnezis is quickly off his line to claim.
CHANCE! Napoli are slowly working their way into the game and have just enjoyed their best chance of the evening so far as Alisson's poor clearance is pounced upon by Allan, who works the ball out to Milik for a dangerous chance which fizzes just past the right-hand post.
Now Alisson is called into action for the first time as he gets down low to push a first-time Insigne effort around the post, before the ensuing corner from the left is then gathered by the Brazilian.
Few words needed by the official Liverpool account as the Reds continue to dominate proceedings at the Aviva...
Salah has been largely anonymous in the first half-hour of the game but here he is trying to create some opportunities as he tries to thread the ball into the path of Mane, only for Albiol to get in the way.
DISALLOWED GOAL: Firmino rifles into the back of the net from around 10 yards out but the flag is up for offside, though replays seem to show he was in fact in line!
Liverpool look a little sloppier as we head into the latter stages of the first half, with the odd misplaced pass now being made, while at the other end, Callejon gets flagged for offside.
CHANCE! Salah finally registers his first effort on target of the game as he finds space and tries to curl into the far corner, but the opposition keeper gets down low and makes the save.
Not far off the end of the first half now and Napoli certainly look a bit sharper after their slow start, but with Liverpool two goals up, they can afford to soak up the pressure and contain their opponents.
DISALLOWED GOAL: Now it's Napoli who have the ball in the back of their opponents' net, but the offside flag rules the goal out, and Alisson is very lucky there as he came out to tackle Callejon but miscued his attempt and the Spaniard was able to tap into the empty net, being unjustly denied his goal as he appeared onside.
HALF TIME: NAPOLI 0-2 LIVERPOOL
HALF TIME: The referee brings an end to the first half without stoppage time and Liverpool lead comfortably against Napoli with a two-goal advantage, but after a superb start, the Italians grew into the game and should have had a goal on the stroke of half time.
Napoli were sluggish in the beginning and Liverpool took full advantage as James Milner struck on four minutes and Georginio Wijnaldum headed into the back of the net five minutes later, but the pendulum slowly swung the way of the Partenopei, who improved as the half went on and even had the ball in the back of the net through Jose Callejon.
Alisson, in all fairness, looked a bit shaky at times, though he can be forgiven as he's making his debut and is in unfamiliar surroundings. Regarding Callejon's goal, it appears that he spotted the flag before the Spaniard went round him to slot home.
The Brazilian also has to a be given credit for his distribution, in particular his 70-yard pass to Salah that set up Liverpool's first goal. On the whole, a decent enough first half for the Reds, and it'll be interesting to see what Klopp decides to do for the restart - seek more goals? Batter down the hatches? Or make a raft of substitutions?
Napoli, meanwhile, will be eager to pick up from where they left off as they shook off their earlier malaise to give their opponents more of a game, and with this being their first proper pre-season test, Ancelotti will be relatively happy with how they bounced back from their woeful start.
With the EFL getting properly underway today, plus a raft of pre-season friendlies featuring English teams today, have a look at the final scores and fixtures on this here link
to see how all the teams have done, or are doing.
KICKOFF: Back underway in Dublin as Roberto Firmino is replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri at the break, while Napoli's Mario Rui comes on for Sebastiano Luperto.
A bright start from Napoli, with Hamsik heavily involved, and the Serie A giants eventually win a corner, which Alisson leaps to claim with ease.
Napoli win another corner, and this time Alisson doesn't get involved as the ball is headed clear by the Reds defence. The Partenopei very much picking up from where they left off before the half-time whistle.
CHANCE! Shaqiri, who is playing down the middle, plays a neat first-time pass into the path of Mane, who in turn heads down the left-hand side, cuts inside and tries to find the far corner of the net, but the effort ends up going wide.
SUBSTITUTION: Milner goes down after a clash of heads with Rui and seems to have suffered a cut, prompting Klopp to take no chances with the veteran, and so new signing Fabinho heads to the pitch. All four new players now in the XI.
GOAL! NAPOLI 0-3 LIVERPOOL (MOHAMED SALAH)
Liverpool's talisman gets onto the scoresheet in emphatic fashion! Salah combines with Mane, who wins a challenge with Albiol before working the ball back to the Egyptian who makes no mistake with a superb curling effort into the far corner! Liverpool rode out the storm and now are three up against last season's second-best side in Serie A!
SUBSTITUTIONS: With Liverpool cruising in this game, Klopp sees fit to make widescale changes. Salah, Wijnaldum, Mane, Robertson and Clyne make way, with Sturridge, Solanke, Jones, Alexander-Arnold and Moreno coming in. Ancelotti, meanwhile, takes off Albiol, Verdi, Rog, Ounas and Inglese to replace them with Maksimovic, Hamsik, Pena, Milik and Insigne.
Much of the prior momentum of the game has now gone up in smoke following the multiple substitutions for both sides as we experience a lull in action.
CHANCE! Ruiz drives forward into the Liverpool half and decides to have a pop from 25 yards, but Alisson is able to watch the ball sail wide.
CHANCE! At the other end, Solanke wins the ball back and threads a pass through to Sturridge, who is clean through on goal but his low shot fails to trouble Karnezis.
CHANCE! Sturridge is involved once again after latching on to a ball through the middle by Jones but once again, Karnezis is not tested as the ensuing chipped effort goes wide.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Just the one change apiece as Keita is replaced by Origi, while Napoli bring on Chiriches for Koulibaly.
GOAL! NAPOLI 0-4 LIVERPOOL (DANIEL STURRIDGE)
Third time lucky for Sturridge! After two failed attempts in quick succession, the England striker does not miss with his third, a finish on the rebound after Origi stung Karnezis's palms! Napoli on their way to being thoroughly humbled in this friendly while Liverpool are set for a huge psychological boost with what is looking like a rout!
SUBSTITUTION: Another change for Liverpool as Philips comes on for Gomez.
GOAL! NAPOLI 0-5 LIVERPOOL (ALBERTO MORENO)
Scrap the "looking like a rout" comment - this IS a rout! The previous goalscorer, Sturridge, turns provider with a beautiful crossfield pass to pick out Moreno, who goes outside his marker and smashes home at the near post!
Anybody remember the old Soccer AM sketch with the two luchadors and the "Easy! Easy! Easy!" chant? This is pretty much it. Liverpool having fun now against their shell-shocked opposition.
CHANCE! Spoke too soon perhaps? Alisson is tested as Verdi takes aim at the near post, parrying the effort wide, before punching away the ensuing corner.
CHANCES! But here come Liverpool at the other end, looking likely and eager to add to their tally - Karnezis keeps out Shaqiri's low free kick, and moments later, Solanke is denied one-on-one before Shaqiri is thwarted once again.
CHANCE! Sturridge comes close to grabbing his second of the night as he meets an Origi cross, but the England man's header goes just wide.
Just two minutes to be added on at the end of this match, with Liverpool at full throttle and looking for a sixth goal.
FULL TIME: NAPOLI 0-5 LIVERPOOL
The referee blows for full time and Napoli have finally been put out of their misery as Liverpool run out 5-0 winners over last season's Serie A runners-up at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The Reds were two up by the 10-minute mark thanks to goals by James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum, and although the Neapolitans finished the first half strongly and had a seemingly legitimate goal ruled out for offside, they were kept at bay and eventually picked apart as Mohamed Salah, Daniel Sturridge
and even Alberto Moreno
added to Liverpool's goal tally.
That's all we have time for here at the Aviva but don't go anywhere as Sports Mole is on hand to bring you match reports, reaction and all the latest news from the world of football, with the EFL back underway and the Premier League clubs putting the final touches to their preparations ahead of next week's big kickoffs! Thank you for following me and, until next time, goodbye!