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    Thursday, February 22, 2024

    Osimhen Returns For Napoli In New Coach Calzona’s Debut Against Barca

    Napoli’s Nigerian forward #09 Victor Osimhen celebrates with teammates after scoring the team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League 1st round day 6 Group C football match Napoli vs Sporting Braga at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples on December 12, 2023. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

    Victor Osimhen will make his first start for Napoli in two months in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, the first match under new coach Francesco Calzona.

    Nigeria striker Osimhen missed Napoli’s draw with Genoa at the weekend after returning to Italy following the Super Eagles’ crushing loss to Ivory Coast in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

    But he starts against Barca as Napoli try to salvage something from a season in which their Serie A title defence was as good as over well before the turn of the year.

    The 25-year-old last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas, when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.

    Calzona has a full squad and flanks Osimhen with familiar faces Matteo Politano and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, while Juan Jesus returns to the centre of Napoli’s defence after being suspended for the weekend’s draw which cost Walter Mazzarri his job.

    Barca coach Xavi has opted for Pedri and teen sensation Lamine Yamal to partner Robert Lewandowski in a front three, with Joao Felix on the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.

    Yamal, 16, could yet become the youngest player to ever score in the Champions League.

    Lewandowski has had an underwhelming season by his high standards but is starting to get into some form with four goals in his last three La Liga matches.


    Napoli (4-3-3)

    Alex Meret; Giovanni Di Lorenzo (capt), Amir Rrahmani, Juan Jesus, Mathias Olivera; Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Stanislav Lobotka, Jens Cajuste; Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

    Coach: Francesco Calzona (ITA)

    Barcelona (4-3-3)

    Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo, Inigo Martinez, Joao Cancelo; Frenkie de Jong, Andreas Christensen, Ilkay Gundogan; Lamine Yamal, Robert Lewandowski, Pedri

    Coach: Xavi (ESP)

    Referee: Felix Zwayer (GER)

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