A similar result will be welcomed in Rome after the Portuguese defeated the Nigerian’s threat in the same match last season.
Victor Osimhen has obviously thrown down the challenge to compete for a spot at Napoli.
Following his exit from the Partenopei’s 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool in early September, the Nigerian missed a month of action. Luciano Spalletti turned to Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori, with the latter particularly rising to the occasion to lead the line in Osimhen’s absence.
Prior to Napoli’s Champions League doubleheader, there was a palpable sense of trust in the Italian attacker, with rumors that the former Sassuolo player was a better match for Luciano Spalletti’s style of play growing.
Raspadori, a 22-year-old who was willing to drop into midfield and link up with the wide attackers on either side, appeared to help Napoli’s attack come together easily.
This is not meant as a criticism against Osimhen, whose link-up and combination play has never been weak and may have even improved under Spalletti last season. However, the seasoned manager has frequently chastised Osimhen for prioritizing runs in behind opponents.
Raspadori, in comparison, is a little bit more adaptable than the Nigerian international, which has led to Napoli’s finest season-to-date performances without their high-priced addition in the summer of 2020.
Osimhen had been issued the challenge, and watchful watchers were monitoring the forward’s response.
In fact, if the Nigerian’s efforts in Napoli’s Champions League victory over Ajax and last weekend’s exhilarating 3-2 victory over Bologna are any indication, he won’t give up his spot in the team easily.
In the 4-2 victory over the Eredivisie team, the striker’s determination and enthusiasm were visible, and his pushing of Daley Blind in the final minutes of play was typical of him. On a night when the Azzurri created European history at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, the celebration that followed demonstrated how much scoring meant to him.
Although the celebration last weekend against Bologna was not as extravagant, the left-footed attempt showed Osimhen’s propensity for latching onto through-balls.
With 20 minutes left in regulation, the player who had impressively taken Raspadori’s position at the break made the game-changing contribution by latching onto Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s pass to give the Partenopei a 3-2 lead.
Notably, Raspadori recorded zero offsides in both games while Osimhen recorded four in the aforementioned victories over Ajax and Bologna, illustrating how different their styles are.
Napoli’s Sunday night trip to Roma presents Spalletti with a difficult choice as the Naples team looks to extend its winning streak over the Giallorossi to six games. Meetings from the previous season, though, resulted in deadlocks and were unkind to the Super Eagle.
Prior to the matchup in Rome last season, Osimhen had scored 11 goals for club and country, but a three-game scoring streak for Nigeria and Napoli was snapped at Stadio Olimpico.
“The game had a lot of transitions in it,” Jose Mourinho stated after the 0-0 draw. “They tried to play directly with Osimhen and then bring others into play around him.
“I liked the organisation and the way we controlled Osimhen’s attempts to get into space because controlling him is far from easy.”
At the Olimpico, the Nigerian did strike the woodwork twice, but neither opportunity came during attacking transitions, and only one came during open play.
On Easter Monday in Naples, the rematch at the Maradona ended 1-1 thanks to a late goal from Stephan El Shaarawy, extending Mourinho’s unbeaten streak versus Spalletti. A powerful effort from an attacking transition hit the side of the net as Osimhen once more struck the woodwork, but at the incorrect end.
The matchup this year features two clubs that are both better than their editions from 2021–22 and separated in Serie A by four points. Despite not giving up, Mourinho’s team has the lowest point total (13) of the top six teams, separated by only five points.
Only Napoli (21.4) in the entire division has greater Expected Goals (xG) than Roma (20.1), but the capital club has been let down by their erratic finishing, winning each of their previous three league games by a single goal.
In six meetings, Spalletti has failed to defeat Mourinho, and many believe that the current Napoli squad gives the Tuscan his greatest chance to break that streak at the seventh attempt.
After last year’s disappointment, he will need Osimhen to score three goals in a row and have third-time luck against a Mourinho team. Success for the marksman will support his bid to retake a starting position; failure won’t be deadly, but it can give opponent Raspadori the initiative.