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Champions League: Napoli to rely on Nigeria's Osimhen in Milan decider

Champions League: Napoli to rely on Nigeria's Osimhen in Milan decider
Napoli's Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen celebrates a goal in the Olympic stadium of Turin, Italy, on March 19, 2023.   -  
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Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse


Luciano Spalletti said Monday (Apr.17) that the return of star striker Victor Osimhen will more than make up for other key players missing in Napoli's Champions League quarter-final showdown with AC Milan.

Nigeria's Osimhen played his first minutes since the international break in Saturday's (Apr. 15) goalless draw with Verona -- hitting the bar. 

He will lead the line at the Stadio Maradona as Napoli try to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg and reach the last four for the first time.

The defeat at the San Siro also cost Napoli two key players for Tuesday (Apr.18) night's clash, with midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and starting centre-back Kim Min-jae both suspended.

But Spalletti believes that the attacking threat posed by Serie A's leading scorer will have a greater impact on the biggest European night in Napoli's history.

"We have a few absences... but we earn more with the presence of Osimhen than we lose with those absences because he will probably be left one-on-one as Milan come after you, they like to press," Spalletti told reporters.

"They're a team that plays a total, modern style of football... they'll already be thinking about him being left up there, as are we."

Missed series of chances

Napoli were the better side last week but without either Osimhen or Giovanni Simeone -- and with Giacomo Raspadori barely match fit -- missed a series of chances which allowed Milan to come away with victory.

Milan also seemed the more streetwise of the two teams and Spalletti and Juan Jesus, who will replace Kim in the Napoli defence, both hinted at the need to be craftier in such a big game.

"I'll only be happy if we get through. There won't be much consolation from a good performance," added Spalletti.

"You always have the chance to overturn any deficit, and I expect the team to do everything necessary during the match to do that."

With Osimhen, Napoli certainly have a fighting chance. The Nigeria striker has netted 25 times in 30 matches in all competitions, including four in five Champions League appearances.

"Victor will be a problem for Milan's defence because he's on form, he's our top scorer and he shows every match that he's got the desire to keep doing even more," said Jesus.

"Let's hope he keep doing that."

Simon Kjaer, one of the Milan defenders trying to stop Napoli and Osimhen, said his team will be motivated by knowing such big matches aren't an every-day event.

"You never know when the next match of this type will come along. These are matches that stay with you for the rest of your life, for good and for bad. That's why we play this game, for the energy and the adrenaline," Kjaer said.

"The other night in the San Siro with our fans was one of the best experiences that I've had in my career. Tomorrow will be different but it will still be a sensation that you can't get with anything else."

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