Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti says he will make a decision about Victor Osmimhen tomorrow and predicts Liverpool will try to keep the Partenopei’s heads ‘below water.’
Napoli begin their European campaign at the Stadio Maradona tomorrow. Spalletti previewed the game at a pre-match press conference in Castel Volturno today where he arrived with a sling to hold his right arm.
“I had an accident on Sunday while I was coming here for Sirigu and Demme. I suffered a fracture of the collarbone and underwent surgery in Milan yesterday,” the coach explained.
“I managed to return to Naples tonight with a friend. I missed yesterday’s training session but now it’s all good, I have my captain here to back me,” he said smiling referring to Giovanni Di Lorenzo close to him.
“I thank the mole of Castel Volturno that leaked the news, there are people living for this otherwise they have no space in the media. You’ll be seeing me with this sling for a while now, for at least a month.”
Osimhen has partially trained with the rest of the team over the last couple of days and remains in doubt for tomorrow’s game due to a muscle issue, while Hirving Lozano is ready to play.
“Lozano is available for selection, he carried out the full session today with regards to Osimhen yesterday he experienced some pain, so he didn’t train yesterday and trained separately today,” Spalletti said.
“Tomorrow he will train with the group provided he feels better than today. Tomorrow, if he feels up for it, he will try and shoot, try to do a bit more with the ball and if he has a positive feeling about that, like this morning, he will be available for selection.”
Napoli said on Monday that Osimhen had partially trained with the group while the Nigeria striker was not on the pitch this morning during the opening 15 minutes of training open to the media.
What does Spalletti make of Napoli’s chances to give a proper match to the Reds?
“The Champions League is like a theme park, there is different music in the dressing room, some players have different tracks for this competition, there is excitement and you can hear different sounds from the dressing room. This is a reward for the great campaign we had last season,” he said
“When you think you’ve done your job perfectly and carried out every single task right to the letter these [Liverpool] players can cause you problems, so you need to be switched on 100% of time. You need to be able to anticipate anything happening.
“These [Napoli] players are showing that they are a team who will get the Stadio Maradona to fall in love once again because they train well, they have passion for football, for these colours and for their teammates as a whole. I am convinced we’ll produce a big performance tomorrow, similar to what we showed against Lazio in our last game.”
Would he settle for a draw against Liverpool?
“If we were to do that it would limit what we showed in the last game. As we know Lazio have a lot of top players, we went to Rome trying to win that game even if we know it’s not an easy place where to get a result.
“We are back in the Champions League after a while and we face one of the most iconic teams in the competition, but we want to produce a performance up to standard, we won’t want to go to the pitch to get praise and compliments, we want to try to win the game and this is the signal we’ll try to send out. Like after scoring the second goal against Lazio, I made two attacking subs trying to score the third goal to protect the lead.
“When you play against Liverpool, you need to be up to the standard, they play a brand of total football. They shift the ball quickly between the centre-backs and the full-backs, I compared the date of Lazio-Napoli and Everton-Liverpool.
“In our match, there were 30 throw-ins, they had double that amount because they play open trying to stretch the pitch and maximise all of that. They try to force one vs. ones with Luis Diaz and Mo Salah and that shows the approach that Liverpool take to the game. They try to suffocate you, they don’t let you breathe.
“They constantly try to keep your head below water. If you try to squeeze them high up the pitch, they play the ball over the top, if they try to sit back, that’s when shift it wide get it to the byline and cut it back. They have a belief, they are well aware of what top side they are.”
Spalletti expects a big push from the Maradona crowd tomorrow night.
“Tomorrow night, when the Champions League anthem comes to an end, they’ll be able to hear the crowd saying ‘The Champions’ as far as Anfield because the Maradona crowd show the passion they have for this team and this city,” he said.
“The love that they have for this football team. When we cross the street, it’s impossible not to pick up from this message, this feeling of love that the fans and the citizens have. It’s almost injected into your veins.”