AC Milan prove that they can best Napoli


Rafael Leao of AC Milan celebrates after scoring goal 0-3 during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AC MIlan at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on April 2, 2023 in Naples, Italy. 

AC Milan’s surprising and dominant 4-0 win against Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday means that the UEFA Champions League’s quarterfinals between the two Italian sides may be more competitive than originally thought. 

Before Sunday, Napoli were considered the the favourites to win the European clash but this defeat at home completely changes the scenario about the quarterfinals just over a week away.

Despite losing their third game of the Serie A season (after Inter away and Lazio at home before the break), Napoli are still well positioned to win the title for the first time in 33 years considering their 16-point advantage over Lazio, who won on Sunday against Monza. 

AC Milan’s win created even more uncertainty for the Champions League’s race, as the Rossoneri are now third in the league, twenty points behind Napoli and one point above fifth place.

AC Milan needed the best version of Rafael Leao to have this kind of performance against the best team in the Italian league. The Portuguese winger scored his second brace of the season and finally shined after Stefano Pioli decided to change the tactical system in January after some poor results. 

Leao had issues adapting to the 3-4-2-1 and against Napoli showed all his potential and skills, precisely when Pioli decided to go back to the four-man defense. That’s most likely not a coincidence. Looking ahead at the quarterfinals, this is what AC Milan need – a plan with proof that it can work.

Everything worked well for AC Milan on Sunday, as also players such as Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz (scored the second goal) were among the best players on the pitch. On the other hand, Napoli and Luciano Spalletti should be worried. The Azzurri missed the opportunity to break Juventus’ points record with Antonio Conte’s Juventus reaching 103 points during the 2013-14 season.

Napoli have to deal with the absence of striker Victor Osimhen, who is also in doubt to play the first leg of the quarterfinals on April 12 at San Siro. 

His injury led coach Spalletti to play Giovanni Simeone as a starter but the absence of the Nigerian striker had a big impact on the performance of the home team. Osimhen scored 21 goals in 23 matches and his goals had a crucial impact on the Scudetto race, and without him, the team didn’t have nearly as much bite.

His absence against AC Milan was fundamental and the Azzurri really need him to recover for the European games. AC Milan now look at the tie with different eyes, but we should not underestimate Napoli. They proved to be the best Italian side this season and they should have a different approach from the one they had on Sunday. For sure, we will have a fun two games to watch this month.

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