‘He has so many options’

‘He has so many options’
Victor Osimhen balks

NOS Soccer

Napoli must look to erase the 1-0 defeat of a week ago tonight in the Champions League quarterfinals against AC Milan. That does not look like an impossible task. Only one goal difference after all. In a home match, moreover. But above all: Victor Osimhen is back!

Because the Nigerian goalgetter was sorely missed in recent weeks. An upper leg injury cost him almost three entire league matches, in which the sovereign leader in Serie A promptly lost four points. Last Saturday he made his comeback against Hellas Verona a quarter of an hour before time, but his shot against the crossbar did nothing to change the 0-0 that remained on the scoreboard after the final whistle.

Osimhen has become a true phenomenon at Napoli, which acquired him from Lille in 2020. In the league this season, he already accounted for 21 goals in 24 games for the team that is fast on its way to its – after 1987 and 1990 – third national title. In the Champions League, the tally stands at four goals.

Sensing rhythm

Every reason, then, for AC Milan to be very worried. But, coach Stefano Pioli has already revealed, his team always takes into account the qualities of the opponent. “And especially when they have attackers who are so strong and so good and so dangerous in the sixteen and in depth. Of course we prepared for that. But we just keep playing our own game.”

Milan coach Pioli: ‘Turlijk we take into account Napoli’s qualities’

Pioli, who also has a striker back from injury with Oliver Giroud, says he knows exactly what to expect tonight. “Against Napoli, it’s always about being able to read the match. You have to sense the rhythm of the match and slow down or speed up at the right time. It will be important to do that well and with concentration.”

“Our lead is minimal. And that against a team that averages three, four goals on their own field in the Champions League this season,” he referred to consecutive home victories over Liverpool (4-1), Ajax (4-2), Rangers FC (3-0) and Eintracht Frankfurt (3-0).

Problem for Milan defense

AC Milan has extensive experience at the highest European club level, although the seventh and last time they won the European Cup 1/Champions League dates back to 2007. Napoli, on the other hand, is in a season that can already be called unique: never before have ‘I Partenopei’ stood in the quarter-finals of the most important European club tournament.

Victor Osimhen rushes past Ajax players Edson Alvarez and Jurrien Timber

Hence success coach Luciano Spalletti, who has to do without suspended midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and central defender Kim Min-jae, is so pleased with Osimhen’s return. Although he stresses, “We have come this far thanks to our whole selection.”

Defender Juan Jesus shows himself more outspoken. “Victor will be a problem for Milan’s defense because he is in form. He is our top scorer and shows every game that he has the will to do even more.”


That Napoli, which has a 14-point lead over “pursuer” Lazio in Serie A and is also by far the most productive with 66 goals, has had some lesser results recently, Spalletti attributes to the international break. “Some players got out of their normal routine in terms of training and had to play soccer in a different way with their national team.”

Osimhen’s mask is on sale in Naples today

Osimhen was also on the road with Nigeria. Still, all of Napoli is counting on the 24-year-old striker, whose face mask, which he has invariably worn since an eye socket injury in 2021, has also become a popular attribute among fans. “He has so many options,” Spalletti knows. “If you give him the ball, he can keep it with him very well because of his physical strength and speed. And he can use his head and vary his pace.”

Oh yes, during Osimhen’s absence Napoli also lost a league game. 4-0 still. And at home. The opponent…? AC Milan, who thus knows very well how to survive in Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, named after the legendary footballer who helped ‘Gli Azzurri’ to the first two national titles in the club’s history.

Kayleigh Williams