regular-article-logo Wednesday, 21 February 2024

Champions League: Lot at stake as known rivals battle on unfamiliar stage

Victor Osimhen back for Napoli, Milan's Giroud looks doubtful

AP/PTI, Reuters Naples Published 18.04.23, 06:34 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File photo

AC Milan can move one step closer to reviving their European glory. Napoli can add another milestone to their extraordinary season.

Figuring out which team will come out on top after the second leg of their all-Italian Champions League quarter final on Tuesday at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona may come down to the status of their centre forwards.


Serie A scoring leader Victor Osimhen is back from an injured abductor muscle in his left leg that kept him out of Milan’s 1-0 win in the first game last week. And now veteran Milan striker Olivier Giroud is an injury concern with an Achilles tendon problem.

Milan won the last of their seven European Cup and Champions League titles in 2007, while Napoli are playing in the quarter finals for the first time.

Napoli are also nearing their first Serie A title in more than 30 years, with a 14-point lead over second-places Lazio. Maradona led the southern club to their only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990, as well as their only European title in 1989 when Napoli lifted the Uefa Cup.

Osimhen returned in the second half of Napoli’s 0-0 draw with Hellas Verona on Sunday in Serie A and showed how dangerous he can be.

“Osimhen has this physicality and speed whereby you can throw the ball up to him and he can protect it, use his head or use a change of pace,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said. “He has so many different alternatives.”

The 24-year-old Osimhen has been one of the top strikers in Europe this season with 25 goals in 29 appearances across all competitions.

At age 36, Giroud leads Milan with 12 goals in 37 games. But the France international had to sit out training on Sunday, possibly leaving coach Stefano Pioli to choose from Ante Rebic and Divock Origi as a replacement.

Ismael Bennacer scored for Milan in the first leg, which also included two yellow cards to physical Napoli midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. Zambo Anguissa and Napoli’s top centre back Kim Min-jae, who is suspended for accumulated cards, will both miss the second leg.

Milan also routed Napoli 4-0 at the start of the month but Osimhen missed that game as well as the first leg last week.

Uphill task for Blues

Chelsea are not a “broken” team this season and co-owner Todd Boehly had every right to address the squad he has invested in, manager Frank Lampard said on Monday ahead of their quarter-final against Real Madrid.

Chelsea, who trail Madrid 2-0 after losing the first leg at the Bernabeu, come into the game on the back of a six-match winless run, with interim boss Lampard losing his first three games in charge.

“We are not where we want to be. I think the word ‘broken’ is a bit much,” Lampard told reporters.

British media had reported that an upset Boehly had come into the dressing room after the weekend’s loss to Brighton to talk to the squad and Lampard said he was ‘comfortable’ with the American’s involvement.

Today’s match

⚫ Napoli vs AC Milan (Milan lead 1-0 after first leg)

⚫ Chelsea vs Real Madrid (Madrid lead 2-0 after first leg) Kick-off at 12.30am (Wednesday); Live on Sony Sports Network

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