Spalletti backs Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia to shine again in the Champions League

By Sports Desk February 20, 2023

Luciano Spalletti has backed star Napoli pair Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to rise to the occasion as they prepare to face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League last 16.

Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia have been two standout performers for Napoli this season, who boast a 15-point lead in Serie A and coasted through their Champions League group earlier this season.

Ahead of their first leg in Germany against the reigning Europa League holders, Spalletti heaped praise on both, as well as the club's decision-makers who brought them to Naples.

"From the point of view of maturity, we can cite Osimhen's reaction to Sassuolo [on Friday] as an example [when he asked to come off after feeling a potential injury]," he told reporters. "As soon as he realised he had a little problem he evaluated correctly, asking for a substitution.

"This is the player who knows how to evaluate things very well, these two types [Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia] they are two of those who truly have the flair, the imagination, the quality to send a message to world football. At the same time, they are two very young boys.

"[Sporting director, Cristiano] Giuntoli and [chairman, Aurelio] De Laurentiis were good at choosing them from a very large group of players, this youth still needs to be shaped, matured.

"Tomorrow night will be an event to be attacked. In my opinion they will be able to interpret it. It is not allowed to be afraid. We will see football that only those at this level can make."

The former Roma and Inter head coach also leaned into a Christmas analogy put to him by a reporter, comparing the Champions League knockout stage to Christmas morning.

"I have to give the reindeer some milk, because it's the night before, it's a party for me," he replied. "We'll see if we can unwrap the presents or not."

Spalletti will go up against opposite number Oliver Glasner, who has impressed at Eintracht since taking over in 2021.

"I know him well because I had already met him when I was coach of Zenit, there is mutual respect as regards the work of the other, for my part," the Italian said. 

"I have a number of people who Napoli makes available to me and who go to see the work of the teams that manage to play good football. Since he won the Europa League we too have gone to see what Glasner is doing.

"He is modern, he knows how to make his team play very short, he knows very well how to press high and bring the team block low and start again in space. He has players who know how to use this space very well.

"We congratulate him on the football he has played, he is doing it even in the league. Precisely for this reason it will be delicate and difficult."

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