While there was little to excite the Napoli fans at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Matchday 30 of what will surely be remembered as a Serie A title-winning season, the sight of Victor Osimhen stepping onto the turf to perform a warm-up as a substitute before the game was a welcome boost ahead of their Champions League quarter-final second-leg with AC Milan.
The Nigerian international had missed the previous three fixtures for the Partenopei, coinciding with a significant fall in success in front of goal, and it was a similar story on Matchday 30 of the 2022/23 Serie A campaign, as an under-strength team played out an uneventful 0-0 draw with Hellas Verona.
Had the officials not quickly disallowed an own goal by Adolfo Gaich on 20 minutes, because of a Matteo Politano offside, the match might have had more intensity to it. In the end, Osimhen’s introduction for the last 15 minutes provided that attacking incentive – smashing the crossbar from the edge of the box, but was too little too late.
Champions League-forced changes fail to convince
Ahead of the match, top-four chasers AC Milan had fallen foul of resting several first-team players before travelling to Naples by drawing with Bologna and, although Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti had something of a free hit, dropping Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski and Amir Rrahmani to the bench raised other concerns.
With the advantage the Partenopei have in Serie A, they could have rested more, but the 64-year-old tactician clearly wanted to keep some continuity amongst the starting XI with a one-goal deficit to overturn against the Rossoneri. However, at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Napoli created 16 attempts without scoring – their highest of the season – and their second string showed against Verona that they will struggle to contribute if called upon in midweek.
European auditions for Jesus and Demme
With Kim Min-jae suspended for the visit of the Rossoneri, after picking up a yellow card at the Stadio San Siro, Juan Jesus came into the Napoli side against the Gialloblu alongside the South Korean, to get some match sharpness. However, with Verona spending most of the game sitting deep, almost content to take a point back to Northern Italy, the ex-Inter defender received little more than a light exercise workout.
A more notable inclusion was a first start of the campaign for defensive midfielder Diego Demme. The 31-year-old has struggled with injury this term, but could be an important option for coach Spalletti against Milan, particularly if chasing the game. A double pivot of him and Lobotka could allow Napoli to field a quartet of attack-minded stars ahead of the positionally diligent duo.