Liverpool, meanwhile, received the good news that Jürgen Klopp has no plans to resign – his agent said so earlier. He has looked tired recently, as have his team, and it seems unlikely he’ll get the funds necessary to rebuild – getting players as brilliant as Mané and Salah for less than £70m isn’t happening again, and it’s also unlikely they’ll nail so many purchases in a row. Anyhow, Robertson, Elliott, Gomez and Nunez are omitted, with Tsimikas, Milner, Konaté and Jones coming in.
I’d wondered if Antonio Conte might pick Bryan Gil, who made a difference when he came on against Sporting last week. Not a massive difference, his team were just dreadful prior to. But Conte has his ways, so it’s a one-paced central-midfield without any serious creativity, with one wing-back who’s over the hill and another who’s under it. They’ve still got Harry Kane, though, and I’d expect them to do enough tonight for that reason. But it’s very hard to see where they’re going.
Right, let’s have some teams:
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas, Fabinho, Thiago, Milner, Jones, Salah, Firmino. Subs: Kelleher, Adrian, Gomez, Elliott, Ramsay, Robertson, Nunez, Carvalho, Bajcetic, Phillips.
Napoli: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Ostigard, Kim, Olivera, Ndombélé, Lobotka, Anguissa, Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia. Subs: Idasiak, Sirigu, Jesus, Mario Rui, Zanoli, Elmas, Gaetano, Zerbin, Zielinski, Lozano, Raspadori, Simeone.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, King, Sands, Barisic, Davis, Arfield, Tillman, Sakala, Kent, Colak. Subs: McCrorie, McLaughlin, Matondo, Kamara, Morelos, Wright, Devine, Fraser, Lowry, Allan.
Ajax: Pasveer, Timber, Bassey, Alvarez, Wijndal, Bergwijn, Taylor, Tadic, Sanchez, Kudus, Berghuis. Subs: Stekelenburg, Gorter, Klaasen, Brobbey, Ocampos, Kaplan, Rensch, Blind, Lucca, Grillitsch, Magallan, Conceicao.
Marseille: Lopez, Bailly, Balerdi, Tavares, Rongier, Guendouzi, Clauss, Veretout, Harit, Mbemba, Sanchez. Subs: Ngapandouentnbu, Blanco, Gigot, Gerson, Payet, Suarez, Under, Kolasinac, Kabore.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Perisic, Dier, Lenglet, Davies, Sessegnon, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Lucas, Son, Kane. Subs: Forster, Royal, Spence, Doherty, Sanchez, Tanganga, Skipp, White, Bissouma, Sarr, Bryan.
Latest scores: Porto 2-0 Atlético de Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 Club Brugge. As things stand, it’s Leverkusen who’ll go into the Europa, with Atléti going home; for that to change, Atléti must either draw or win, or Leverkusen must lose.
The group stage of the Champions League has been criticised for years and rightly so: it exists to make money, not because it’s the best way of structuring a competition. But the attitude to it of people in England has also been criticised and rightly so: the richest clubs strolling through to the knockouts doesn’t make it necessarily boring.
But tonight’s entertainment is a hard sell because, of the four groups in action, only one is in the balance. Marseille v Spurs can be followed with Scott Murray – Spurs need a point and Marseille need a win, Sporting v Eintracht. Sporting, meanwhile, are through with a draw, and also if they and Spurs both lose; Eintracht need to win.
Otherwise, Rangers need a five-niller to pip Ajax to Europa League playoff action, and course we’ll also be covering Liverpool v Napoli. If the former beat the latter’s 4-1 result when the teams met in Italy, they’ll top the group, but the game should be fun regardless of consequences. All of which is to say: it’s on!