Bad news, AC Milan fans; Napoli are set to have star striker Victor Osimhen back for the second leg of their Champions League tie.
The Nigerian forward missed Wednesday night’s first leg at the San Siro due to a groin injury. However, Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti has confirmed Osimhen’s availability for next week.
“Victor Osimhen will 100% be available for the return leg at Maradona on Tuesday,” said the Italian decisively, via ESPN. “He will be there. Any absence is damaging at this stage of the season, but we also have players who can fill in – which is why we are where we are. We trust the squad.”
Despite their best efforts, Osimhen’s absence from the Partenopei attack was a big miss in Milan. The runaway Serie A leaders suffered a 1-0 defeat to their Italian counterparts. They need a big response at home next week as a result.
Milan 1-0 Napoli: All-Italian Champions League tie hangs in the balance
A pulsating match at the San Siro saw AC Milan take a slender advantage over Napoli.
The fast-starting visitors gave Milan an early fright when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia almost scored within a minute. However, the Rossoneri were able to clear the talented Georgian’s effort off the line.
The hosts resisted Napoli’s opening onslaught and eventually grew into the game themselves. For example, Rafael Leao created a brilliant chance for himself with a powerful run from his own half. His attempt ended up drifting wide after late pressure from Kim Min-Jae.
Minutes before half-time, AC Milan managed to break the deadlock. Some great skill by Brahim Diaz opened up the pitch and saw the Rossoneri baring down on the visitor’s penalty area. The Spaniard found Leao, who fired a pass across the box to Ismael Bennacer.
He unleashed a powerful, low-driven shot that evaded the keeper and put the seven-time UCL winners in front.
A chippy second half featured numerous fouls, confrontations – and cards. But, in amongst all the gamesmanship, Napoli continued to pressure the Milan defence. Mike Maignan in the home net was very busy, frequently forced into numerous impressive saves.
Napoli then suffered a serious setback just past seventy minutes. Ex-Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa picked up two yellow cards in just four minutes – arguably harshly – to put the visitors down to ten men.
Napoli will leave Giuseppe Meazza frustrated that they could not convert one of their 16 shots. Having Victor Osimhen back for the second leg of this fascinating Champions League tie could thus make a huge difference to Napoli if they keep creating chances.
They will also have the support of the fans – or at least their manager demands it.
Spalletti warns fans to get behind Napoli
This is Napoli’s second loss to AC Milan in the space of ten days. Prior to their European clash, Milan thrashed the Partenopei 4-0 in Naples in a Serie A fixture.
This uncharacteristically poor showing from Napoli saw supporters air their frustration with the team. But this did not sit right with the coach, Luciano Spalletti.
Speaking after the UCL first-leg loss, the manager threatened to leave the club if his team endures another sour atmosphere at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
“I don’t know what atmosphere to expect in the return leg,” said Spalletti, via Football Italia. “But you can imagine how upset I was to see our stadium like that against Milan [in the Serie A defeat].
“We are winning the Scudetto after 33 years of waiting. We were playing an important match and seeing that ‘tutti contro tutti’ is something I’ll never understand and that I’ll always carry with me.
“If the same thing happens during the return leg, I’ll leave the bench and go home,” he warned. “Because it’s something inexplicable. The boys are sensitive to what is happening around them. Against Milan at [Stadio] Maradona we played in an absurd atmosphere. We were taken hostage.”
Fortunately, the return of Victor Osimhen provides a boost for everyone ahead of the pivotal European game. The forward leads the Serie A goal charts with 21 from 23 appearances.
A partisan crowd in Napoli will therefore hope that their top scorer can inspire a turnaround to reach the Champions League semis.
Featured image credit: Getty