Napoli boss Spalletti tells players to enjoy 'Christmas Eve' thrill of Milan clash and make up for Osimhen absence

By Sports Desk April 11, 2023

Luciano Spalletti promised Napoli can beat Milan without Victor Osimhen as he told his team to "enjoy every moment" of the club's maiden Champions League quarter-final.

The first leg at San Siro takes place on Wednesday, just 10 days after Napoli suffered an unexpected 4-0 trouncing at home against Milan in Serie A.

That result came almost out of the blue, with Napoli streaking away at the top of the league, where they now hold a 16-point lead over second-placed Lazio as a first Scudetto since 1990 looms.

Osimhen, their 25-goal striker, has not played for Napoli since before the recent international break due to an abductor muscle injury sustained on Nigeria duty.

He missed the Milan game in the league, from which Napoli bounced back with a 2-1 win over Lecce on Friday, and it remains to be seen whether Osimhen returns for the April 18 home leg against the Rossoneri.

"We have won very important games without Osimhen," Spalletti said. "I expect all my players will rely on their team-mates and their own qualities and abilities so that the most brilliant tactics come out."

Captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo agreed with coach Spalletti, saying: "We feel OK even if Osimhen isn't there tomorrow.

"He's a fundamental player, but we can't rely on him. We will have to face this battle with the players who are available. We will have to take any chances possible."

Napoli headed into this week as the competition's top scorers with 25 goals, with their average of 3.1 goals per game the fifth-best in a single campaign – after Bayern Munich in 2019-20 (3.9), Paris Saint-Germain in 2017-18 (3.4), Real Madrid in 2013-14 (3.2) and Liverpool in 2017-18 (3.2).

It is not only Osimhen who has been scoring for them in Europe either, with his haul of four goals in the Champions League matched by team-mates Piotr Zielinski, Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori.

 

The last Italian team to have as many different players scoring four or more goals in a single edition of the Champions League were 2002-03 finalists Juventus (Del Piero, Nedved, Di Vaio and Trezeguet), so that may bode well.

"We need to have fun. We can't go to the pitch and be afraid," Spalletti said in a pre-match press conference.

"We need to take this chance, enjoy the game, enjoy every moment, even tonight. We're going to have dinner, and we need to enjoy dinner, and after dinner, we need to enjoy those hours before we go to sleep. They have to enjoy every single moment and this will be satisfying as well.

"This expression I use – Christmas Eve – for games like this is part of the idea a match has to be enjoyed in every single moment."

The Milan game from April 2 is one Spalletti says his players can forget about.

"Champions do not regret when they fail," he said. "They just recover, they just stand up again, and this team is made of champions.

"We are about to play a match that could represent a turning point in our future. We are aware of this fact, and we are ready for it."

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