Daniele Bonera has explained Milan’s improved mentality and the obligation they feel to qualify for the Europa League.
The Rossoneri hold an outside chance of qualifying for Europe at the end of a difficult season, but a win in the derby against Inter this weekend looks like it may be key to those hopes.
For one of the side’s veteran defenders, the signs of a positive end to the season are there, despite defeat in the last round of fixtures at Roma.
“Over the past two months, the team has grown a lot,” Bonera has told Tuttosport this week.
“The defeat against Roma left neither doubts nor issues in the dressing room, because we were in the game until the end and do not forget that the Giallorossi are having a resounding season with 85 points, which in other circumstances would have already won them the Scudetto.
“I am convinced that there are ground for doing well and finally providing joy for our fans. Winning a derby after a period that has been so complicated, it would provide us with a lot of self-confidence.
“We began the season badly, but the growth has been evident in recent months and this gives us the strength to prepare for the match against Inter.
“We have to be brave and not feel too much pressure and we have to think not about settling the game on our own, but working as a team.”
Bonera was asked about the race for Europe, which still involves a number of other teams.
“We will have to win all three matches left and then wait and see what our opponents do. Parma are ahead of us on the head-to-head, but there are many teams within two points of each other and there may also be some surprises.
“Winning the derby, for example, may draw Inter back in, even if the Nerazzurri have a comfortable margin. We have a duty to go all out and get there. The club has made this request, it is essential to get into Europe, also for the prestige of the club. It is true, we are all used to making the Champions League, but now we have to think about something else.
“Clarence Seedorf’s future? I do not read the papers! I think that right now we need to stay focused on the field.
“If we divert mental energy to read or listen to what is said about the Coach or the club, we will lose sight of the goal that we are pursuing - the Europa League.”
Bonera was pressed for comment on the under-pressure Dutchman, though.
“And it is premature today to talk about a possible change on the bench. In any case, players, Coaches, directors, managers, Press officers, anyone, they have the duty at Milan to do their best.
“We are all, every day, up for discussion. I speak for myself. Lately I have been employed on the right, and in that role I began my adventure with Milan under Carlo Ancelotti.
“With Leonardo I was also played on the left. The availability makes a difference and I, to my way of thinking, play to satisfy the needs of the group.
“I am happy with my performance and all the talk on the formation depends on the outcome - if you lose, everything goes wrong, when things are better, it is the right system.”
Bonera was inevitably asked about Mario Balotelli.
“First of all, I will say that Mario is important for Milan and Italy. With Balotelli there are always a lot of expectations.
“He has a natural talent and I think that he has also improved tactically. He is more available to the team.
“It needs to be understood that sacrifice in defence does not compromise offensive performance. The team supports him and his teammates value him, they love him, they are ready to compliment him or pull his ears when needed. He should feel comfortable, his growth is evident.
“Is it a derby against Mauro Icardi? Let’s say these are two special characters, always the centre of attention, but the most important thing is the field and I hope that Mario does more.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!