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Heineken UCL Special: Napoli Vs Milan: Perfect Time For Osimhen To Underscore His Pedigree

Heineken UCL Special: Napoli Vs Milan: Perfect Time For Osimhen To Underscore His Pedigree

One of the most feared strikers in Europe, Victor Osimhen, has the fate of SSC Napoli resting on his young shoulders as they welcome fellow Italians AC Milan to Sicily hoping to overcome a 1-0 deficit to book their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

They may be set to relieve Serie A’s reigning champions of their Scudetto, leading Italy’s top flight by some 14 points with just eight games left to play, but Napoli have failed to get the better of Milan in recent weeks and have a deficit to overturn if they are to reach the Champions League’s final four.

The Nigerian international was conspicuously missing in both occasions as Napoli fell 4-0 at home to Milan in the league before suffering another defeat at the San Siro a week ago in the first-leg of their Champions League tie despite dominating the game.

Osimhen

Napoli need goals in this game, so they will be ecstatic about the return of Osimhen. Their fit-again top scorer came off the bench in their weekend draw at home to Verona with 17 minutes remaining and hit the bar but couldn’t find the winner in the 0-0.

With 25 goals across 30 appearances in 2022-23, this is already his best ever club season in front of goal. The only players within the top five European leagues to have scored more competitive goals than the Nigerian this season are Erling Haaland (47), Kylian Mbappé (32), Marcus Rashford (28), Robert Lewandowski (27) and Karim Benzema (26) – none of which ply their trade in Serie A. Apart from the highest scoring of those five players (Haaland and Mbappé), Osimhen has a better minutes per goal ratio (91 mins), too.

He’s scored four goals in his last four UCL appearances, netting twice against Eintracht Frankfurt in his last appearance in addition to strikes away at the German side and in a home game versus Ajax in the group stage, but he’s never scored in two previous appearances against Milan. Napoli will be hoping that stat will change for the better on Tuesday night.

The eyes of Italy, Europe and even the world will be on Osimhen as he looks to drag Napoli to a win, while Osimhen will be looking for an early goal to set Napoli on the way to a potential comeback in this tie.

Related: Heineken UCL Special: Will Osimhen’s Absence Cost Napoli Against Milan Again?

Milan managed to win the first leg 1-0 and will thus be heading into Tuesday’s clash with a slight advantage. Should they succeed, it would be the first time reaching the semi-final in 16 years.

The visitors will be looking to become the first team to defeat Napoli in three different matches within a single season since Lazio in 1994-95. Should they do this, they’ll be certain of a place in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, where they’ll either face rivals Inter Milan or Portuguese giants Benfica.

The omens are good for Milan, with them having won their last three away matches against Napoli – their joint-longest winning run against them away from home. The last team that they defeated away from home twice in a single competitive season were Sampdoria in 2015-16.

But they have to beware as they have been eliminated twice before from UCL knockout ties after winning the first leg – in 2003-04 versus Deportivo de La Coruña in the quarter-final (4-1 first leg, 0-4 second leg) and 2012-13 against Barcelona in the last 16 (2-0 first leg, 0-4 second leg).

History suggests the worst for Napoli, however. They have been eliminated from their last 10 European knockout ties after losing the first leg, last progressing to the next round after suffering a first-leg deficit in the 1988-89 UEFA Cup quarter-final versus Juventus, overturning a 2-0 first leg defeat to win 3-2 on aggregate before going on to win the tournament that year inspired by the legendary Diego Maradona.

Just like Maradona inspired Napoli back in ’89, the stage is all set for Osimehn to forever etch his name in the history books of Napoli and also underscore his pedigree as one of the best strikers in the world.

RECENT FORM

Milan’s form has been indifferent of late, but they seem to be able to raise their game against Napoli.

Since the start of March, Pioli and co have won just two of their eight competitive matches, but both of these have come against Serie A leaders Napoli. This weekend’s 1-1 league draw away at Bologna was their second successive Serie A stalemate, following a 0-0 home draw with Empoli the weekend before.

Away from home, Milan have lost twice as many games (four) as they have won (two) since 14 January, losing at Lazio, Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Udinese on the road (all in Serie A) and defeating both Monza and Napoli over this period.

Napoli are winless in their last two competitive matches, losing the first leg of this tie to Milan before drawing 0-0 at home to Verona on Saturday. This is the first time that Napoli have been winless in two consecutive games in all competitions since August, while it’s the first time that they have failed to score in back-to-back matches across all competitions since December 2020. They haven’t gone three games without scoring in over 10 years, since failing to score in four consecutive matches in February 2013. Surely this talented Napoli team can’t fail to score yet again.

PREDICTION

While Napoli play the more thrilling football, Milan’s pragmatism has served them well in this season’s competition and could carry them into the semi-finals.

However, with Osimhen back in the fold and thousands of success-starved Neapolitans roaring on, Napoli can rise to the occasion.

NAPOLI 2-0 AC MILAN (Napoli win 2-1 on aggregate)


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