NAPLES, October 21- At least four Liverpool fans including a father and his two sons were attacked in Naples ahead of a match on Thursday by a group of locals wielding metals bars and a knuckleduster, police said.
The attack happened in the early hours after the four came out of a bar on Principe Umberto square in central Naples, ahead of the Europa League clash between Liverpool and Napoli scheduled for later on Thursday at 1700GMT.
Police said they had arrested three of the attackers — aged 25, 30 and 48.
"The injuries were aggravated by the use of three metals bars with screws, a wooden pole with nails and a metal knuckleduster," a police statement said.
Two of the victims, the 50-year-old father and a friend of his two sons, were hospitalised and later released. The father, who refused treatment, had injuries to his left temple and the other man was hit in the back, police said.
"It happened at around four in the morning near a bar on Principe Umberto square where the four English men… had been drinking," the statement said.
"They were walking towards the hotel from the bar when they realised they were being followed by a group of people armed with sticks," it added.
"They decided to run towards the hotel but did not make it…. That is when the real attack started, with metal bars and wooden poles.
"The four victims… tried to seek refuge inside the hotel but were blocked when they found a second entrance door locked. The screams and the unusual night time clash immediately alerted police patrols in the area."
Media reports said there have been other clashes ahead of the match.
A 28-year-old Italian was reportedly injured trying to protect some Liverpool fans, clients in his bar, from another attack.
Two Liverpool fans taken to hospital following one attack were named as 44-year-old Ian Friar, a prison guard, and 53-year-old Alexander Phillips.
Friar suffered a head injury but has already been discharged from the Loreto Mare hospital, while Phillips was stabbed in the thigh and still needs treatment, according to reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In a separate attack 27-year-old Luke Watson was taken to hospital with stab wounds to his head and thigh after being attack by a group of youths with knives, according to La Stampa.
Police have opened an inquiry into the incidents but tensions are high in the city.
A sell-out crowd of 60,000 people is expected for the game.