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UEFA Champions League Group E Preview: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk

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In the Bavarian Football Works’ UEFA Champions League previews, we hit the important topics like who are these teams, how’d they get here, and what players you should keep an eye on. Next up: Group E.

Liverpool Training Session Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Liverpool (by Josh Tobolt)

Who are they?

The reigning European Champions. They are coached by ex-Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp and are an elite team anchored with UEFA Player & Defender of the Year Virgil Van Dijk and UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year Alisson Becker in defense. They’re also an elite offensive monster spearheaded by the trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah, the two times reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner. They are an extremely deep squad with pivotal role players such as Divock Origi (Who scored THAT wonder corner goal vs Barcelona to cap that incredible comeback), Naby Keita and defensive maestro Fabinho. Currently viewed as a co-favorite to win champions league, per analytical site FiveThirtyEight.

UEFA Champions League”Tottenham Hotspur FC v Liverpool FC”

How’d they get here?

For starters, they won last year’s Champions League which gave them automatic entry into this years tournament. Furthermore, even if they had lost, they finished 2nd in the Premier League with 97 points (Which would have won them the Premier League in 25 of the last 27 seasons). Currently sitting 1st in the current edition of the Premier League.

Player to Watch

Virgil Van Dijk. VVD had a season to remember in which he won numerous hardware including UEFA Super Cup and Champions League as well as UEFA Player of the Year, besting Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as well as UEFA Defender of the Year and the Professional Footballers (PFA) Associations Men’s Football Player of the Year Award to name just a few. Viewed by many as the best CB in the world, he brings an aggressive style of play combined with an innate ability to place perfect passes. Throughout the duration of this past Premier League season, not a single player was able to beat VVD on a 1v1 dribble. If he maintains his form, Liverpool have a serious chance to follow Real Madrid as teams who repeat as winners of the Champions League.

Burnley FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Napoli (by Logan Chugg )

Who are they?

S.S.C. Napoli are a historic Italian club from the city of Naples. Their history is full of ups and downs. Their golden age was in the mid-80s when Diego Maradona came to the team and led them to their first title in 1986. He is currently their leading goal-scorer. He also led them to win the Copa Italia, the UEFA Cup (the precursor to the Europa League) and the Italian Supercup. Shortly after the departure of Maradona the club began to succumb to financial ruin. After declaring bankruptcy and restructuring multiple times, Napoli found itself in Serie C (third division) as recently as 15 years ago. Now they have fought their way back and find themselves qualifying for one of Serie A’s European spots regularly.

How’d they get here?

Under former-Bayern coach, Carlo Ancelotti in his first year with the club, Napoli finished second place in Serie A, putting them directly into the group-stage of the Champions League.

Interesting fact: Napoli finished in third place in Group C in last year’s Champions League behind Liverpool. Napoli was tied on points and goal differential, and both teams beat each other 1-0 when they played. It took seven tiebreakers to determine who moved on. The determining factor was most goals scored in the group-stage. Liverpool went on and ended up winning it and Napoli was sent to the Europa League where they went on to make to the quarterfinals, losing to eventual finalists, Arsenal. However, can you imagine how last year’s Champions League would have looked it Bayern Munich played Napoli in the Round of 16 and Liverpool went to the Europa League?

Player to Watch

Arkadiusz Milik. Napoli has a Polish striker of their own. Milik was their leading scorer last season, with 17 league goals, and 20 overall. Even though he was not able to find the back of the net in the Champions League last season, watch for him to get on the score sheet and help his team in Europe like he does domestically.

SSC Napoli Pre-Season Training Camp Photo by SSC NAPOLI/SSC NAPOLI via Getty Images

Red Bull Salzburg (by Chuck Smith)

Who are they?

Red Bull Salzburg are the champions of the Austrian Bundesliga and yet another of the Red Bull soccer family. Interestingly, former New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch is in his season with Salzburg where he’ll be placed right into the fire of the Champions League. Cican Stankovic is the team’s goalkeeper and the offense is powered by 19-year-old Norwegian Erling Braut Haland and 23-year-old South Korean Hee-Chan Hwang. Dominik Szoboszlai and Antoine Bernede are among the squad’s top midfielders, while veterans Andre Ramalho (27) and Andreas Ulmer (33) anchor the defense.

How’d they get here?

Red Bull Salzburg won the Austrian Bundesliga with a remarkable 25 wins and five draws against only two losses. Salzburg also had a quality run in the Europa League last season where it went undefeated in Group B against sister-club RB Leipzig, Celtic FC, and Rosenborg. Salzburg defeated Club Brugge in the first round of the knockout phase, but was eventually upended by Napoli 4-3 in the next round.

Player to Watch

Dominik Szoboszlai. Szoboszlai is a versatile midfielder who mostly plays as a “10” or an “8”, but also occasionally shifts out to wing. The 18-year-old Hungarian spent the first half of last season with Red Bull-affiliate FC Liefering in 2.Liga (Austria’s second division) where he had six goals and four assists in nine games. before his move to Salzburg where he had five goals and five assists in 20 games across all competitions. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder has drawn the attention of bigger clubs like Juventus, Bayern, Arsenal and Ajax.

WSG Swarovski Tirol v FC Red Bull Salzburg - tipico Bundesliga Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

Genk (by John Dillon)

Who are they?

Koninklijke Racing Club Genk is a Belgian club that has flourished especially since roughly 2000. In its present form, Genk is the product of the fusion of two earlier clubs in 1988. After initial relegation to Belgium’s second division, the club made it back up and has been contending in Belgium since, winning the First Division in 1998/99, 2001/02, 2010/11, and most recently last season, 2018/19. Genk also won the Belgian Super Cup this year, beating KV Mechelen, last season’s Belgian Cup winner. As of this writing, Genk is in sixth place in the league, with a 3-1-2 record

How’d they get here?

Genk qualified directly for the Champions League for the third time in its history by winning the First Division last season.

Player to Watch

Genk’s striker Mbwana Samatta from Tanzania already has five goals, and right winger Junya Ito has provided three assists this early in Genk’s campaign. But many people will be curious about Genk’s new signing 20-year-old Ianis Hagi. A Romanian national born in Turkey, Hagi is the son of Gheorghe Hagi, Romania’s greatest player of all time and one of the world’s best in the 1980s and 1990s. Genk signed him for a reported €8-10 million. He has seen just 142’ minutes in the league this season, but managed a goal and an assist in that time.

Club Brugge KV v KRC Genk : Jupiler Pro League Photo by Peter De Voecht / Photonews via Getty Images

Predictions

Phillip Quinn, Yams, John Dillon, Jake Fenner, MiranKoFCB, Logan Chugg, Gopika, Marcus Iredahl, Mike Lynch, Tom Adams, Callum Seniuk

1) Liverpool, 2) Napoli, 3) RB Salzburg, 4) Genk

Ryan Cowper, Josh Tobolt

1) Liverpool, 2) Napoli, 3) Genk, 4) RB Salzburg

Fergus Tong, Ineednoname, Chuck Smith, Brian Burton

1) Liverpool, 2) RB Salzburg, 3) Napoli, 4) Genk