A spot in the semi-finals will be on offer in the all-Italian UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash, Napoli vs AC Milan.
Napoli vs AC Milan: Match Preview
The final chapter of April’s mouth-watering head-to-head trilogy between Napoli and Milan takes place at the Maradona Stadium on Tuesday. The two Serie A heavyweights will face off in the return leg of their blockbuster Champions League quarter-final tie.
Ismael Bennacer’s first-half strike in the first leg at the San Siro is the difference going into a crunch second leg in Naples. But unlike last week, Napoli will have their talismanic striker Victor Osimhen back to the fold from a short-term injury. The Nigerian’s return will fill Luciano Spalletti’s side with confidence as they bid to overturn a narrow 1-0 deficit.
Osimhen’s cameo appearance in dull 0-0 home draw against Hellas Verona at the weekend indicates he’ll be ready to make his first competitive start since mid-March. In his absence, Napoli had only won one of their four matches in all competitions (D1, L2), courtesy of a 2-1 triumph at Serie A minnows Lecce.
However, they have lost both encounters against Milan this month without scoring. That’s probably the only positive for the underperforming visitors after a 1-1 draw at Bologna on Saturday left them vulnerable in a closely-contested top-four race in Serie A. But Stefano Pioli’s attention rests firmly on making a standout achievement in the Champions League.
You don’t have to look beyond Pioli’s starting XI at Renato Dall’Ara to get the full grasp of Milan’s priorities. It’s been 16 years since Milan last qualified for the Champions League semi-finals. So even though their defending Serie A campaign has gone sideways, the Rossoneri could still redeem themselves by reaching the grand final of Europe’s most prestigious competition.
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While Spalletti will be over the moon after welcoming Osimhen back from injury, he’ll have some challenging calls to make. In-demand center-back Kim Min-Jae picked up a yellow card at the San Siro and will have to watch this clash from the stands. The same goes for Andre Frank Zambo-Anguissa, who received his marching orders in the first leg.
The two first-team stalwarts will join second-choice striker Giovanni Simeone on the sidelines, leaving Spalletti short of options in multiple areas of the squad.
As for Milan, veteran goal-getter Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains the only high-profile injury in the visiting camp. After resting Bennacer and Sandro Tonali, Pioli will bring his two most-trusted midfielders back to the starting lineup.
Likewise, Theo Hernandez, Simon Kjaer, Fikayo Tomori, Davide Calabria, Brahim Diaz, Leao, and Olivier Giroud all started on the bench at Dall’Ara. All should regain their starting berths on Tuesday.
Napoli vs AC Milan: Head to Head:
Napoli have a good recent record against AC Milan and have won 13 of the last 33 matches played between the two teams, as opposed to AC Milan’s nine victories.
Napoli have suffered two defeats against AC Milan this month – the previous team to secure three victories against the Neapolitans in a single month was Lazio in 1995.
AC Milan’s previous away game against Napoli ended in a 4-0 victory for Stefano Pioli’s side – the Rossoneri have won three such matches against the home side for the first time in their history.
Napoli (4-3-3): Alex Meret; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Juan Jesus, Mario Rui; Tanguy Ndombele, Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski; Hirving Lozano, Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Milan (4-2-3-1): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Fikayo Tomori, Hernandez; Ismael Bennacer, Sandro Tonali; Diaz, Rade Krunic, Rafael Leao; Olivier Giroud.
NAP vs ACM: Fantasy XI
Mike Maignan;Simon Kjaer, Fikayo Tomori, Hernandez;Di Lorenzo, Ismael Bennacer, Piotr Zielinski; Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Rafael Leao; Olivier Giroud.