As they prepare for what may be the biggest two games in the history of the club, Napoli is concerned about Victor Osimhen’s potential return for the first leg of their all-Italian Champions League quarterfinal.
After a 2-1 victory at Lecce, Southern Italy’s top club needs just four more victories from nine games to win their first league title since 1990. Yet, they lacked the cutting edge that Luciano Spalletti’s team would need in Wednesday’s opening leg against AC Milan.
Before Antonino Gallo’s careless backpass slid through the shocked goalkeeper’s fingertips on Friday, Napoli was forced on the back foot by inferior Lecce. Friday’s victory was only possible because of a weird own goal.
The performance wasn’t much better than the 4-0 home beat Milan dealt Napoli the weekend before, despite the three points moving Napoli closer to the league title.
Napoli has never before advanced to the Champions League’s last eight.
They are considered dark horses because of how they have advanced in the competition and because they were drawn on the opposite side of the draw from the current powerhouses of European football.
Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have become more vital to Napoli as the season has gone on, and the Serie A’s top scorer’s recent thigh injury has brought home just how crucial he is to the team’s overall performance.
Osimhen gives Napoli the ideal escape when things aren’t going as planned, despite the 25 goals he has scored across all competitions.
Midfielders can get beyond opponent pressing and grasp onto his lay-offs because of how hard he works to follow down and hang onto long balls that pressured teammates send forward.
“When I state that I always prioritize the team, I mean it. That’s evident in the way I play, right? remarked Osimhen in a Saturday interview with France Football.
“I’ve always been hungry, so that’s what it is. In Napoli, the attackers are the first line of defense, but happily, here with coach Spalletti, you have no alternative.
After making a number of changes for their goalless draw with Empoli last Friday, Milan coach Stefano Pioli will have the most of his first-choice players available, with the exception of the injured Pierre Kalulu.
The San Siro has hosted many notable European events, and it will be filled once more on Wednesday as Milan attempts to reach its first semi-final since becoming the continent’s champions for the seventh and last time in 2007.
Milan may not have defeated Empoli, but it wasn’t for want of trying; in a commanding performance that only lacked the finishing touch, Milan had 23 shots and held 70 percent of the ball.
In the hopes that his team’s European heritage will show through, Pioli is anticipated to remain with the same starting lineup that handed Napoli the biggest beating of their otherwise successful season.