Rudi Garcia has highlighted the importance of Giacomo Raspadori as Napoli seek to take another step towards the Champions League knockout stages in the continued absence of Victor Osimhen.
Napoli host Union Berlin at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Wednesday knowing victory will take them to the brink of the last 16.
Osimhen, who scored 26 Serie A goals last season to fire Napoli to their first domestic title since 1990, is again absent with an injury picked up on international duty last month.
Boss Garcia told reporters ahead of the Union game that Osmihen will return from his native Nigeria on Wednesday and be available for Napoli’s post-international break visit to Atalanta on November 25.
He also threw his support behind in-form Italy forward Raspadori who has scored in his last three appearances, including the winner when Napoli beat Union 1-0 in Germany two weeks ago.
Garcia said: “Since I arrived we have played 14 matches and he (Raspadori) has always been the protagonist, both when he came on during the match and from the start.
“I know the qualities he has, he scores goals and assists. He is a player who comes to tie up the game for the team, he defends, he can play in different positions.
“It is obvious that as a number nine or as an attacking midfielder his performance can be better, but I repeat that he can play both as a midfielder and as a winger.”
Napoli stand on six points from three games after away wins in Braga and Berlin and a home defeat to group leaders Real Madrid.
Beating Union on Wednesday would leave them needing only one point from their final two games to guarantee passage to the knockout stages.
Garcia said: “We will get closer if we win and then it depends on the other result (in the group). But it will not be anything done arithmetically.
“No match is easy, because we are talking about the Champions League and an opponent who, even if he is not having a good moment, has still qualified for the Champions League and comes from one of the top five championships in Europe.
“We had difficulty winning there but Real Madrid also only won at home against them with a goal in the 95th minute.
Ditt war ditt. pic.twitter.com/G0TsqDYwlO
— 1. FC Union Berlin (@fcunion) November 7, 2023
“My players will give their best and by putting their individuality at the service of the collective I am sure that we will win.”
Union are in dire straits after suffering a 12th consecutive defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Having finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, Union find themselves 16th and a point off the bottom of their domestic league while failing to beat Napoli will see them knocked out of the Champions League.
Captain Christopher Trimmel said: “At the moment we are simply not good enough. I feel every day that the coach and the team are giving their all – but at the moment it’s just not enough.
“It’s hard to explain, but we have to continue to work hard every day, develop, get better and give everything.”