Liverpool have to secure Champions League progress against Napoli, Jamie Redknapp has warned, as Thursday night football could derail a Premier League title bid.
The Reds head into a crucial clash with Serie A opposition at Anfield aware of what is required to reach the last 16.
A 1-0 win over Napoli, or victory by two clear goals, will be enough to see Jurgen Klopp’s side through and see them avoid a potential tumble into the Europa League.
Redknapp believes it is imperative that Liverpool remain among the elite, as a change to their continental schedule could have a destructive impact on their domestic efforts.
The former Reds midfielder told the Daily Mail: “Tuesday night is Liverpool’s biggest game of the season. Their result against Napoli will have a huge say on whether they can win the Premier League.
“Qualify for the Champions League knockout stage and they go into Sunday’s Anfield showdown with bitter rivals Manchester United with incredible momentum.
“Failing to make it through would not only be a significant blow to their confidence but could also mean they are playing Europa League football.
“Playing on Thursday then Sunday is gruelling and it means you are more likely to have to play catch-up in the Premier League. It would threaten to derail their title push.”
Liverpool hit the Premier League summit on Saturday as Mohamed Salah inspired them to a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth and Manchester City suffered a first top-flight defeat of the season at Chelsea.
The Reds have little breathing room, though, and know from recent history how difficult it is to sustain a challenge after pushing themselves into contention.
“Despite making their best start to a top-flight season, Liverpool are still only a point clear at the top,” added Redknapp.
“Ten years ago, Rafa Benitez was in the same position as Jurgen Klopp now – one point clear after 16 games – only to finish second to United.
“In 2014 Liverpool were in the driving seat with three games to go but could not get over the line.
“We will only find out if this current group have what it takes if they are still leading as the season enters the final straight.
“Up against defending champions City, Liverpool need any advantage they can get. It’s why they must do the job on Tuesday.”
After facing Napoli in midweek, Klopp’s side then play host to arch-rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
They also have testing Premier League meetings with Wolves, Newcastle and Arsenal to come before opening 2019 away at title rivals City on January 3.