Quique Setien described being appointed Barcelona coach as being beyond his "wildest dreams", calling the role the highest accolade in world football.

Setien – who left Real Betis in May 2019 – was named Barca coach in something of a surprise appointment on Monday following Ernesto Valverde's departure.

Barca great Xavi had been strongly linked with the job, though reportedly turned down the offer to succeed Valverde at this stage in the season.

And having been handed the opportunity to manage one of the world's biggest clubs, ex-Las Palmas coach Setien – who acknowledged his shock at the speed of the move – is convinced his eagerness for the job will be easy to transmit to Barca's star-studded squad, even if it will be impossible to improve on the team's past achievements.

"Without a doubt I want to thank this institution for the opportunity they've given me to come here," he said. 

"Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. I'm someone who is very emotional and today is very special for me.

"I am excited to start with this project and that is the biggest thing I have to transmit to the players, we know we depend on the players.

"I need to transmit this desire, this enthusiasm, this will to win, this confidence that I have now and normally this is not very complicated for me to transmit it.

"We have had the first training session and everything has gone very quickly. [On Monday] I was walking around by the cows in my town and now I'm at the training ground at Barcelona coaching the best players in the world for a huge team which I'll never be able to improve upon.

"This is the highest accolade."

Thursday's defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana proved to be the final straw for Valverde, who took over at Camp Nou in 2017 and guided Barca to two LaLiga titles plus a Copa del Rey triumph.

Setien, though, lauded his predecessor's work. 

"I want to thank Ernesto. He's always seemed to be a very good person, he's always been very nice to me," the 61-year-old said. 

"I value the work he has done, how he is, his principles and many other things about him. I'm also trying to get some contact with him because there are many things from his work which are going to be very good for us.

"I want to thank him for leaving me with a side which are top of the league. You can imagine I was waiting for an opportunity. You always assume a team down at the bottom in a negative run of form.

"The work Ernesto has done and how he has left the team is something to be thankful for. It is not normal to be left with a side which are top of the league."

Josep Maria Bartomeu wasted little time in outlining his ambition for Barcelona under Quique Setien, and hopes his decision to part with Ernesto Valverde will result in a treble this season.

Valverde was sacked late Monday after a prolonged period of uncertainty following the Supercopa de Espana defeat to Atletico Madrid last week.

Barca board members sounded out former midfielder Xavi while there were widespread reports that Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Massimiliano Allegri were also high on Barca's wish-list.

They instead settled on Setien, handing the former Real Betis boss a contract until 2022 - although there is a break clause in 2021 due to club elections - and Bartomeu made clear he is hoping for instant results.

Speaking at Setien's presentation on Tuesday, the Barca president said: "The dynamic of the team could be improved. We are in the next round of the Champions League and the Copa is getting started but we felt the dynamic could be improved.

"We spoke about this many times with Valverde, very openly with him and we have always been very close to Ernesto Valverde with a good relationship and have always spoken about what could be improved.

"With this momentum and with this new dynamic we aspire to win LaLiga, the Champions League and the cup." 

Bartomeu admitted Barca had spoken to other coaches but insisted the repeated links had not come from the club themselves, adding: "Over the last weeks and months we have talked with other coaches to discuss the future. It is our obligation.

"We spoke to other coaches but we did not publish this information."

Setien is a renowned disciple of former Barca player and coach - and the man credited with the club's philosophy - Johan Cruyff and took charge of training for the first time on Tuesday.

His first game at the helm will be on Sunday when Granada visit Camp Nou.

Bartomeu said: "We all know Setien is a huge fan of Johan Cruyff's style and we share the same objectives."

Barca sporting director Eric Abidal was also thrilled to have Setien on board.

The former France defender said: "To have him here is a great joy for us. He's a coach who has shown through the teams that he has had that he has great skills.

"What I like most is the communication he has with his players, his way of working, his way of coaching.

"He is always focused on details. To compete at the highest level, the details are very important, whether it's in the league, the cup or the Champions League."

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed his opposition to suggestions the Champions League should expand in a move that could mean more games for Europe's elite teams.

According to a Daily Mail report, leading Premier League clubs including Liverpool are backing plans that could see the Champions League significantly restructured.

The group stage could grow from a six-match commitment to 10 games per team, the British newspaper said. Such a step could boost earnings potential but also have an impact on existing domestic football schedules.

Klopp's team lead the Premier League, and in the coming week they head to Qatar to compete in the Club World Cup, after earning a place in that event by winning the Champions League.

Injuries are beginning to take a toll at Anfield, with Georginio Wijnaldum joining the casualty list on Saturday when he suffered a muscle problem in the 2-0 win over Watford.

One Liverpool team will face Aston Villa in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, before another plays Monterrey at the Club World Cup a day later.

"The fixtures are like they are. You all like watching us suffering - that's how it is," Klopp said. "You look a little bit concerned, but at the end nobody cares really."

He added: "Today I read an article [saying that] the top clubs want to do more games in the Champions League or whatever. I am not involved in these plans. So that's absolute b******s as well.

"That's how it is. We can talk about everything but we have to cut off games, not be putting more in.

"Until then we have to do what we do and we will do that and we are quite positive about it.

"We need each point we can get because it's a tough and long season. You [the media] can make early judgements... but we can't. We just have to recover and play the next game."

Klopp dismissed the idea his team were off their game against Watford, who had enough chances to win the match rather than leave empty-handed in Nigel Pearson's first game as Hornets manager.

"No, just a difficult game. It was not an off-day," Klopp said. "We scored sensational goals.

"It was just a difficult game and I'm completely fine with that."

Klopp also cast a questioning look at the arrangements in place for FIFA's Club World Cup.

The opening matches have been played at Doha's Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, but all games from now on will be contested at the city's Khalifa International Stadium, with five fixtures due to be played on the same pitch in five days.

That scenario has come about because FIFA said in early December that the Education City Stadium, which had been due to host Liverpool's semi-final against Monterrey, plus the third-place play-off and final, was not ready in time to stage games at the tournament.

That venue is being built primarily for the 2022 World Cup.

Klopp recognised Liverpool would be going into a warmer climate after their seven-hour flight to the Middle East, but added: "I think it's raining there. Perhaps it doesn't help the pitch - the one pitch we are playing all on ... it's sensationally good organisation - where all the games are on one pitch and it's raining.

"I'm not sure if the people in Qatar are used to a lot of rain. We will see how the pitch will be. That's a bit of a problem."

Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich have no interest in joining a proposed European Super League, according to the club's new president.

Preliminary plans for a revamped, larger-scale Champions League incorporating promotion and relegation reportedly emerged in a letter the European Club Association sent to its 232 members in April.

The Premier League and Bundesliga oppose the proposals and Germany's most powerful club remains fully invested in the current state of play, according to president Herbert Hainer.

"We stand for the Bundesliga! Without ifs and buts," Hainer told Suddeutsche Zeitung.

"We are not interested in any Super League at all, that can be said very clearly.

"We want to have international success, of course, but that's why there is the Champions League, which I think is a success story with a clear format."

Former Adidas CEO Hainer formally succeeded Uli Hoeness as president in December as part of a changing of the guard at Bayern.

Club great Oliver Kahn is due to step in as chief executive in 2022 after being hand-picked to replace Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The former Germany goalkeeper will first serve a 12-month apprenticeship on the supervisory board and Hainer affirmed his confidence in a smooth handover.

"Rummenigge and Kahn are two intelligent people who can assess this situation well and want the best for Bayern," he said.

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri would welcome a Champions League last-16 tie with Tottenham so that he can face off against "extraordinary" Jose Mourinho.

The Italian champions eased into the knockout stages with five wins and a draw in their Group D campaign, culminating in a 2-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

Tottenham suffered a 3-1 loss at Bayern Munich in their final Group B match, meanwhile, but they were already assured of second place behind the German giants in Group B.

Juve and Tottenham could meet in the next round, with Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Lyon and Real Madrid other possible opponents for Juventus.

Mourinho claimed teams will be eager to avoid Tottenham, but Sarri is open to a reunion with the Portuguese, whom he previously faced off against during his time in the Premier League.

"I have had the honour of getting to know [Mourinho] and I hold him in high regard," former Chelsea boss Sarri said at his post-match news conference.

"He is an extraordinary person that is very different from the perception that the outside world has of him.

"It was a real pleasure to get to know him. Playing against him isn't easy, but seeing him again would be great."

Juventus are joined in Monday's draw by fellow group winners Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona, RB Leipzig and Valencia.

Asked which side he considers favourites to go all the way and lift the famous trophy, Sarri replied: "Manchester City."

Juventus return to Serie A action on Sunday with a home match against Udinese.

Andy Robertson insists Liverpool have gained a reputation in Europe that makes them a team to avoid in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

The Reds remain on course to defend their continental crown after beating Salzburg 2-0 on Tuesday to secure a place in Monday's last-16 draw in Nyon.

Jurgen Klopp's side beat domestic rivals Tottenham 2-0 in last season's final, a year on from losing to Real Madrid in the showpiece fixture.

Having finished top of Group E, Liverpool can face one of Real Madrid, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund or Lyon in the next round.

Robertson believes each of those sides would rather dodge a trip to Anfield as the reigning champions aim to reach the final for a third year running.

"That is the atmosphere we have created in the last two years - a team which has been to the final twice and we are respected in this tournament," Robertson told reporters, quoted by several British newspapers.

"Maybe the first season when we went to the final, I don't think we were really respected until after we went to Porto and washed them away.

"We did not get the respect we deserved. Now, we know we are respected in Europe. No one will want us but everyone who gets into the last 16 will fancy themselves.

"It is the toughest tournament. The teams you come up against are outstanding and will fancy themselves. Everyone is confident. And when you get to the last 16 you get to the nitty-gritty."

Liverpool lead the way in the Premier League and have knocked the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Barcelona out of the Champions League in the past two seasons.

But Robertson, who has featured 24 times in UEFA's flagship competition, concedes Liverpool now have a target on their back as reigning champions.

"Last year and the year before we have been excellent in the knockout stages and we have controlled games, but we know that now we are the champions everyone wants to beat us," he said.

"That is what we have to deal with and hopefully we can deal with it well. But there are about 40 games between now and the last 16 so we will worry about that when the time comes.

"We need to keep proving why people don't want to play against us. We know it will be tough, but we look forward to the challenge as we want to go far in this tournament again and we have made a big step."

Maurizio Sarri wants to see signs of a "change of mentality" from Juventus against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

The Bianconeri's place in the Champions League knockout stages is already clinched heading into matchday six, with Sarri's team guaranteed top spot in Group D.

Juve have won four and drawn one in Europe so far, continuing Sarri's impressive personal run in continental competition after he led Chelsea to Europa League success last season.

But his side are second in Serie A and lost for the first time this season against Lazio at the weekend, meaning Sarri sees room for improvement even in a fixture they need not win.

"We know that we have to work to do better, but we are calm," said Sarri. 

"We need a spark, but that can be many things. We've got to move the ball quickly and not defend too deep after we've taken the lead. It's important that we always try to control the game.

"These are all things that represent a change of mentality at Juventus, so they do not come automatically. We've seen them in moments, for example the first half in Rome [against Lazio]."

Sarri wants his side to demonstrate a strong mentality in their performance, even with their passage already secured as Leverkusen still hope to overhaul Atletico Madrid for second spot. 

"The first time I was contacted by the Juventus hierarchy, I asked how come they only managed three points in the final Serie A games of the season," he said. 

"I said it would be a bad sign of their mentality if they justified it with the fact the Scudetto had already been won.

"We have the privilege and the honour of playing in the Champions League. I expect a strong and focused performance, because there are always objectives. I ask for a performance, then the result can come or not."

Mats Hummels has called for Borussia Dortmund to find their voice and become a big noise again after admitting the team can be "a bit quiet".

It is coming up to 23 years since Dortmund won their only Champions League title, and almost seven years since they last reached the final of Europe's top club competition.

Domestically, they have been left standing by Bayern Munich's dominance of the Bundesliga, with Dortmund's back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012 followed by seven in a row by the Bavarians.

Hummels swapped Bayern for Dortmund last June, joining for a second spell with the club, and the former BVB club captain believes that, as a senior figure in Lucien Favre's squad, he can play a motivating role.

"I try to fill the role with life and take responsibility. Especially on the pitch where I verbally drive, order and cheer," he said.

"It is already an issue in our team that sometimes we are a bit quiet. That is why it is very important that the leaders stand up."

Dortmund headed into the final round of Champions League group games with their last-16 hopes in the balance, targeting a home victory over Slavia Prague on Tuesday and hoping for Barcelona to deny Inter three points at San Siro.

Centre-back Hummels, who turns 31 next week, knew Dortmund could not afford a sleepy performance if they were to achieve their ambitions.

He told DAZN: "Parts of us sometimes have to be woken up a bit in the game. The 4-0 against Leverkusen [in September] sounds clear, but in fact we had big problems in the first 20 minutes.

"We sometimes go into the games and see how it works. Sometimes we turn the switch over only when there is no other way.

"If we get that under control, we can be a top team. But that is not a thing you change in one or two days. We have to work it out for ourselves. When you look at the training sessions, there has been a development in recent weeks: mentality, attitude and sharpness."

Dortmund sit third in the Bundesliga, having slipped off the pace in November when thumped 4-0 by Bayern and held 3-3 by Paderborn, yet a 5-0 weekend win over Fortuna Dusseldorf, achieved without the suspended Hummels, showed what potential they have.

"We just look at our performances - and they were very changeable in the current season. But nothing is lost yet," Hummels said.

"In the Bundesliga, no team really marches ahead. This is mainly because the level - and I see that contrary to what is often written - clearly increases. The small teams no longer travel to Dortmund or Munich to be shot down. They have become much stronger tactically and individually and have a clear plan. That's why the well-known teams lose many more points."

Sadio Mane believes winning the Club World Cup could give Liverpool the adrenaline surge they might need to drive home their Premier League title push.

Jurgen Klopp's side will have Flamengo among their trophy rivals in Qatar next month and have complicated their build-up to the FIFA tournament with Wednesday's 1-1 Champions League draw against Napoli.

A win would have made sure of a last-16 place with a game to spare, allowing manager Klopp to possibly rest some stars for the Group E finale at Salzburg.

Instead, Liverpool may need a point to be sure of qualification and a win to seal top spot, making the trip to Austria one with high stakes.

And with holding midfielder Fabinho nursing an ankle injury that could keep him sidelined for a significant period, Liverpool are a key man down.

It remains to be seen whether the Brazil international can return by the time the Club World Cup comes around, but Mane is in no doubt about the potential significance of that competition.

"To win games and win trophies motivates players all the time," the forward said. "Hopefully we're going to win it and give us high energy for us to go again until the end of the season."

Front-runners Liverpool have begun their Premier League campaign with a staggering 12 wins and one draw from their opening 13 fixtures, and they face Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Saturday.

A hectic December awaits, with matches and travel that should test their resources to the limit. Klopp will need to shuffle his line-ups, yet Mane is confident the Reds can overcome the obstacles in their way to make it a successful month.

He said: "We are Liverpool, we have a big squad. We have many players who can play. It's part of football and we have to deal with it. We know it won’t be easy.

"Tiredness is in the head. If the coach needs us, we'll play to help the team."

Mane dismissed any suggestion he threw himself to the ground in an effort to win Liverpool a first-half penalty against Napoli, after he went down when surrounded by defenders.

The appeals for a spot-kick were waved away, much to the hosts' frustrations.

"I think it was a penalty, sure. I wasn't diving like usual!" Mane said, with a chuckle, having been at the centre of subsequently retracted diving accusations from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at the start of this month.

Georginio Wijnaldum described the ankle injury sustained by Fabinho against Napoli as "a big blow' for Liverpool but vowed to be the perfect stand-in in a more defensive-midfield role.

The Netherlands international came off the bench to replace Fabinho in Wednesday's Champions League contest at Anfield in an indication he may fill the void despite having played a more advanced role for Jurgen Klopp's side this term.

But Wijnaldum appreciates the likely loss of Fabinho for a number of games, as Liverpool await clarity on the severity of the injury, comes as a serious setback to the reigning European champions and Premier League leaders.

"It's a big blow for the whole team, of course, and for him as a player," he said. 

"It's a situation you've got to deal with. Over the years we've had a few blows with injury and we just have to show that we can deal with the situation."

Fabinho has a crucial holding role to play at the hub of Liverpool's team, and it perhaps goes against Wijnaldum's attacking instincts to occupy that position.

However, he has done so studiously in the past, and when asked about the challenge of taking over from Fabinho, there was a twinkle in the eye of the Dutchman.

"I played there last season. Do you think I'm ready?" he told reporters at Anfield. "We just have to show that it doesn't affect us."

The exit of Fabinho after 18 minutes was swiftly followed by Dries Mertens firing Napoli in front with a terrific finish across goal from a tight angle, his strike so impressive it was hard to fault Alisson.

Dejan Lovren headed an equaliser midway through the second half, but it was not Liverpool's night. Klopp's charges were oddly pedestrian at times, and the 1-1 draw means they head to Salzburg for their final Champions League Group E match on December 10 as leaders, but still probably needing a point to make sure of a last-16 place.

Wijnaldum acknowledged it was a "frustrating" position, given Liverpool knew a win over Napoli would have made sure of their qualification and taken any edge off the Salzburg game.

"Of course you want it to finish early, but this is the situation. It comes to the last game," Wijnaldum said. "There's nothing we can change about it anymore so what we have to do is to deal with this situation and try to get a good result."

There was at least some relief in the Liverpool camp when linchpin defender Virgil van Dijk was able to shake off a blow to the ribs, which came from Mertens in the lead-up to Napoli's goal.

The sight of Van Dijk receiving treatment on the pitch caused anxiety in the stands and on the pitch too.

"Everyone was worried," Wijnaldum said. "I think he is [fine] because he finished the game. With Fabinho it's difficult to say because he went off."

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Napoli are "still alive" after their courageous Champions League performance at Anfield earned praise from the club's demanding owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Napoli secured a hard-earned 1-1 draw against Liverpool in the Champions League, taking the lead through Dries Mertens after 21 minutes before conceding a 65th-minute Dejan Lovren leveller on Wednesday.

Amid internal problems at Napoli, head coach Ancelotti told reporters: "I have spoken to the president. He's really pleased. He's thanked the players for their efforts."

De Laurentiis has looked set to impose fines on Napoli's players who deserted a recent training retreat amid a run of disappointing form, and it remains to be seen whether that punishment will proceed.

"We'll have to see over the next couple of days. The president wants to speak with all of the players, so I believe this is a positive sign, absolutely, on everyone's behalf," Ancelotti said.

He added: "I think we're beginning to improve and leave those problems behind.

"We've shown a lot of commitment, hard work and character and personality. I think I've seen that the team's definitely still alive. We could still do better of course, in Serie A in particular."

Napoli sit seventh in Serie A but look like progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League, seeking to avoid defeat in their final Group E game against Genk next month to be sure.

Genk were thrashed 4-1 by Salzburg midweek, and Napoli should have more than enough to fend off the Belgian club back in Naples.

Against Liverpool, Napoli looked defensively sturdy for long stretches and particularly in the first half gave the Champions League holders' backline plenty to do.

Ancelotti said: "I knew we were going to play well, I was convinced against a team like Liverpool. You know you're going to suffer against a team like that, but we know we can create them problems as well.

"So I was certain we'd play well, but just because you play a good game against a team like Liverpool it doesn't mean you get a good result.

"The game wasn't particularly aesthetically pleasing but we were clear-minded, we were solid and our aim wasn't to put in a fantastic performance - our aim was to get through to the next round and we need another point to do that of course."

The veteran coach knows there is light and day between Napoli's performance in Europe and in Serie A.

"It's difficult to put your finger on it; it's difficult to find an explanation," he said. "I think it's perhaps something in the players' minds - a mental thing.

"I think that you need a lot of courage, show a lot of character, personality, show a great mentality. i think this is a team we have where we lose ourselves very quickly but we find ourselves quickly too and that's a good thing."

Imagine turning up to Liverpool with nothing to say. Arriving in this great city of song with barely a chirrup. Well, it didn't take Napoli long to find their voice.

Speaking words of wisdom? Certainly not in the run-up to this game. Having found themselves in times of trouble, Napoli's touchy owner Aurelio De Laurentiis slapped a gag on his team.

Three weeks have passed since a Naples rebellion, when the squad en masse figured that being ordered by De Laurentiis to check in for a week-long isolated retreat at short notice amid a slump in form did not exactly tally with their own plans and did what could be reasonably termed 'a runner'.

Already disheartened, the week in camp was considered less the salve to their sorrow and more a firework detonated over an open wound.

The revolt looks set to cost Napoli's players millions of euros, with the sledgehammer diktat of De Laurentiis decreeing, according to whispers and leaks, that each player will forfeit a quarter of their month's salary. Sky Italia reported some were told only hours before kick-off at Anfield. Further reports say Napoli have fined midfielder Allan and captain Lorenzo Insigne 50 per cent of their November wad.

Forced into their shells, the one player who broke a gagging order on international duty, Eljif Elmas, was carpeted in a terse club statement - called out for spouting positively about the prospects of Carlo Ancelotti's team chasing a top-two Serie A finish. Perhaps De Laurentiis assumed it sarcastic, given seventh-placed Napoli have looked entirely incapable of scaling those heights.

Under apparent duress, Napoli boss Ancelotti obliged the UEFA paymasters with some cursory words in a pre-match press conference, but ostensibly he said nothing. The "all-time great", as Jurgen Klopp described Ancelotti in his programme notes, could not afford to be anything but the puppet of his boss, toeing the party line. One foot out of line and Ancelotti risks being put on permanent retreat.

Maybe, then, this was the night Napoli needed, not quite the Anfield smash-and-grab triumph but a match with a deep sense of occasion where they reminded many, perhaps themselves, of their qualities. It was resilience they were relying on at the end, a 1-1 result rewarding their labour. Wonder what the draw bonus pays…

Napoli supporters, in the absence of meaningful explanations from the club, have wondered who to direct their ire towards: should it be De Laurentiis, Ancelotti, or the players who, whatever else might be happening, have continued to flounder on the pitch, draws with Genoa and a Milan side battling their own crisis of confidence telling a story.

However, Liverpool were ponderous early on and there was no lack of belief on show when Dries Mertens followed a little playground tussling with Virgil van Dijk by sprinting behind the home backline to finish sublimely in the 21st minute, Napoli’s players displayed the delight of a team that actually care, much as their owner may have doubts.

The travelling Neapolitans in the stands, primed to castigate, were instead castling the men in blue and white.

De Laurentiis may be a luminary of modern Italian cinema, a highly prolific producer: his film factory pumps out movies more rapidly than Liverpool used to accumulate trophies, even if some might barely match the heft of a Milk Cup.

But being cast in a drama of his own has seen him tear up the plot and attempt to write one of his own.

Winning at Anfield would have added an unforeseen chapter to this season's chaotic story, and the hyper-animated Klopp, booked before half-time for one gesture of incredulity too many, was on a personal mission to change the flow, own the script.

A telling substitution saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain take over from Joe Gomez, with Jordan Henderson dropping to a right wing-back role to allow the former Arsenal man to find pockets of space further forward.

Napoli, thinking they had Liverpool's front three well watched, suddenly had an extra attacker to think about. The giant awoke. And how it roared in the 65th minute when Dejan Lovren's header from James Milner's corner rippled the left corner of Alex Meret's net.

Meret had already dropped one cross at the foot of Roberto Firmino, whose shot was hooked off the line. But as much as Liverpool pressed in the closing minutes, they could not break down the Italians again.

The sight of Andy Robertson steaming into a late challenge showed both sides were up for the scrap. It also showed Liverpool had met their match in a team we thought were in crisis. Appropriately, tonight, Napoli walked through their storm. They rattled the European champions. For the first time in a while, they could hold their heads up high.

Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was unsurprised by the "amazing" Harry Kane breaking a Champions League record on Tuesday.

Kane scored a brace in Spurs' come-from-behind 4-2 win over Olympiacos, setting a record in the process.

The England international became the fastest player to score 20 Champions League goals, reaching the tally in just 24 games – two quicker than Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero.

Alli was unsurprised by his team-mate's efforts, hailing the 26-year-old forward.

"It's amazing," he said. "Obviously we've been playing together for a few years now, he's an amazing guy, top player so he deserves all the credit he gets.

"I'm not surprised he broke another record."

Alli was also on the scoresheet as Jose Mourinho's men came from behind to secure their place in the knockout round from Group B.

The 23-year-old said Spurs knew they had the talent to turn the clash around.

"I think just character and belief. We know the quality we have in the squad," Alli said.

"When you're performing badly, you want to turn it around. Personally I felt like I was at fault for the second goal.

"Getting the goal just before half-time gives us momentum going into the second half and belief. I think we showed our quality in the second half."

Tottenham are in action again at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.

Diego Simeone blamed Atletico Madrid's scoring woes on wasteful finishing rather than chance creation following the Champions League loss to Juventus.

The Rojiblancos drew a blank in Turin as Paulo Dybala's stunning free-kick before half-time wrapped up a 1-0 win and top spot in Group D for the Serie A side.

Alvaro Morata squandered a good late opportunity, albeit from a seemingly offside position, while Thomas Partey and Saul Niguez missed decent chances as the visitors hit the target with two of their 15 shots.

Atletico have now been restricted to six goals in five Champions League games and are the least prolific of all bar one team among LaLiga's top 12.

Simeone said: "I think we played a good game against a really great team.

"I think we are lacking precision in the forward areas as we are generating enough dangerous situations to score goals. We worked very well tactically."

He continued: "We need to work on improving our numbers, which are bad.

"Obviously we all need to work more, have patience and do our best in order to generate more chances.

"Vitolo and Morata put in a great effort and Felipe played an extraordinary game. We improved as the game went on. In the first half we tried to be strong at the back and then play on the break.

"We did well as [Juve] hardly created chances in the first half, except the goal, and in the second half we also improved as the period went on but could not score, which is the most important thing in football."

Atletico splashed €126million on Joao Felix in the close season but have struggled to replace Antoine Griezmann's goals.

The loss of Diego Costa for up to three months with a neck injury has further depleted Simeone's attacking stocks, but the Argentine head coach would not commit to further spending in January.

"I work with the players I have," he said.

"I'm doing my best in order to make them better and I will not change that mentality. Then, we will see what decisions will be made regarding the needs the team have."

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