Nigeria's striker Osimhen out of Napoli's Champions League clash against AC Milan

AP , Tuesday 11 Apr 2023

Napoli heads into one of its biggest-ever matches without star player Victor Osimhen.

Napoli s Victor Osimhen celebrates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between Torino and Napoli at the Turin Olympic stadium, Italy, Sunday, March 19, 2023


Osimhen has missed the last two matches for Napoli after injuring the adductor muscle in his left leg while on international duty with Nigeria.

The club hoped the forward would be fit for the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against AC Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday but he failed to recover in time and was not included in the matchday squad.

Osimhen is the top scorer in the Italian league this season and his 21 goals have played a crucial role in Napoli’s seemingly unstoppable march to a first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two Italian league championships in 1987 and 1990. Napoli has a 16-point lead at the top of the table with the team also featuring dribbling wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and influential midfielder Stanislav Lobotka.

Osimhen has netted four times in the Champions League this season, including three goals in the victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the round of 16.

That saw Napoli reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in its history.

In Osimhen’s absence, Napoli was routed 4-0 by Milan in the league but bounced back to win 2-1 at Lecce on Friday.

“In soccer you sometimes go through the doldrums but you have to be able to dig deep when it matters,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said after the win. “We’ve gained a lot of confidence from successfully navigating this tricky away match.”

Osimhen has not trained with the team since returning to Naples last month and the club will now hope to have him back for the second leg on April 18.

Fellow forward Giovanni Simeone has also been ruled out of the trip to Milan with a thigh strain.

“For us it doesn't change anything,” Milan defender Théo Hernandez said. “Napoli has so many good players. Whoever would replace Osimhen would do well.”

Milan has looked more solid in defense of late and hasn't conceded a goal in its last two matches.

But the Rossoneri have won only one of its last six matches in all competitions, though that was the resounding victory in Naples.

“The Champions League has nothing to do with the league, they are two different things with different teams,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said, "it will be a completely different matter to the league.

“Obviously we got indications there, we showed we were at the top level, but it will not be the same type of match.”

It is Milan's first time back in the last eight of the Champions League since 2012. It won the last of its seven titles in 2007.

“Will history count tomorrow? No, but San Siro will,” Pioli said.

The winner of the two-legged matchup between Milan and Napoli will face Inter Milan or Benfica in the semifinals.

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