Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC3 minutes to read
MILAN (Reuters) – Victor Osimhen missed Napoli’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against AC Milan after failing to overcome a thigh injury in time to play at the San Siro on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old, who leads the Serie A charts with 21 goals this season, was omitted from Luciano Spalletti’s squad for the trip to Milan and is now fighting to prove his fitness for the second leg in Napoli on April 18.
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But Spalletti said his side could manage a tie without the star striker and urged them to treat the occasion as “like Christmas Eve”.
“I decided not to play with Osimhen because I didn’t want him to be injured for a long time,” Spalletti said on Tuesday. “We have another game against Milan next week and I want him to be fit for that.
“But we won very important games without Osimhen. We are here because we won this competition without him and I expect the same, that all players rely on the abilities of their teammates.
“We can’t go out on the field and get scared. We need to take this opportunity and enjoy the game.
“This is like Christmas Eve. The game, the day before the game, the dinner before the game, it’s all there to enjoy.”
The absence of Osimhen, who scored four goals in five Champions League matches this season, represents a heavy blow to Napoli, who had entered the confrontation as favorites to win by 16 points at the top of Serie A Spalletti, and aims to win the Scudetto for the first time since 1990, 22 points behind Fourth place Milan.
The Nigeria international has been sidelined since scoring twice against Torino on March 19 and has missed Napoli’s previous two matches, including a 4-0 home defeat by AC Milan on April 2, and was seen as questionable in the first leg.
Despite Osimhen failing to secure a place in Spalletti’s squad, Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo said his side could overcome the loss of their “decisive” striker.
We can say out loud that it is [Osimhen] “He’s fundamental for the team,” Di Lorenzo said. “He’s crucial, but we don’t just count on Osimhen. We count on all our teammates.
“We are calm and relaxed because we have to face this battle with the players that are available. Osimhen is injured, we can’t risk playing and being injured for five more games.
“All our players can score and that’s very important for the team, especially in a tough game like the one we have tomorrow. We have to take every chance we get.
It will be a completely different story this time [than the 4-0 defeat against Milan]. The Napoli you saw against Milan last week are not the Napoli you usually see. This is the Champions League, not Serie A, and our attitude will be different.”
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