When Napoli confirmed the reduction of Victor Osimhen’s two-game ban, there had to be relief and elation owing to the perceived injustice after the forward’s sending off against Venezia on the opening day.
Will the returning Osimhen hurt Juventus?
Napoli host the winless Old Lady and the Nigerian will relish the chance of further punishing Massimiliano Allegri’s team.
The tenacious centre-forward received his marching orders over what was believed to be a punch, but replays showed Gianluca Aureliano’s decision was a bit harsh. This didn’t stop Luciano Spalletti admonishing the Nigerian, seemingly warning him to guard against his on-field reactions going forward.
“The expulsion of Osimhen? He has to be careful of his emotional reactions,” Spalletti said as quoted by Ilnapolista after the game.
“He is a strong attacker, and all defenders will help each other. He will always have his hands on the defenders. He must be careful. The referee was corrected when I went to talk to him, and he explained what he saw.”
Having scored a staggering eight times in pre-season, that red card — which initially meant a two-game ban — threatened to halt the momentum the ex-Lille striker had gained throughout the off-season. Without a doubt, the reduction to Osimhen’s suspension is exactly what the doctor ordered.
While this weekend’s visitors are Juventus, the Old Lady’s underwhelming start to 2021/22 ought to have the young West African licking his lips before Saturday’s encounter at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Massimiliano Allegri hasn’t enjoyed the best of returns to Turin so far and their two-match winless run has extended a poor run that began at the backend of his first spell at the club in 2019. In the Italian’s final year in charge, Juve ended that campaign failing to win their last five Serie A games, although it didn’t affect the Bianconeri’s Scudetto charge.
Allegri has now failed to win seven league games on the trot and there’s every reason to predict that unwanted run could become eight this weekend, particularly as the giants’ have underwhelmed with their performances.
They were also rocked by the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in the final days of the summer transfer window, leaving them with little time to get a replacement.
The experienced manager seemed intent to downplay the Portuguese’s sale, opting to focus on the present and future, rather than the past.
“Ronaldo didn’t want to play for Juventus anymore, so he returned to United,” Allegri told reporters. “It would have been his last season at Juventus, so we anticipated what we would have done next summer.
“Cristiano spent three amazing years at Juventus, and we wish him the best, but life goes on. I don’t like to think about what could have happened; in life, you need to be practical. Here at Juventus, the group has always won trophies, not the single footballer.
“We have this characteristic in our DNA made of self-love and sacrifice. To be competitive and win, we must have ambition and passion.”
While the Old Lady will be intent on bouncing back on Saturday, the expected absences of Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro and Rodrigo Bentancur following exertions in South America during the international break, Juan Cuadrado through illness and Federico Chiesa through injury weaken Juventus significantly.
Throw in the added fact that the last four Serie A meetings between these clubs have been won by the home and the Azzurri may even be favourites this weekend.
The perceived weakness of the visitors means Napoli could secure another win over the Black and Whites and extending their run without defeat in Naples will motivate a returning Osimhen.
While Spalletti has hinted at some level of fatigue after exertions with Nigeria, you expect the manager to start the 22-year-old on Saturday.
“Most of our players are feeling well, some are tired because of their international games. We know they want to help their national teams,” the coach admitted. “We must assess Zielinski and others, but then there is another group of players who have trained, is feeling well and can make an important contribution.”
After a sending off threatened to weaken his momentum, Osimhen will be raring to go after his suspension was halved. Indeed, against Juventus, the centre-forward will want to lay down a marker for the new season.
Seye Omidiora is a passionate football writer and pundit whose deep appreciation for the beautiful game exceeds the usual. He is currently a columnist for Goal Africa and has previously written for Vital Football UK, IBCity Info and Opera News.
Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.
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