Vincenzo Montella defends Leonardo Bonucci, sees “a turning point” at Milan and admits facing Roma “cannot be a normal match for me.”
It kicks off on Sunday at 17.00 UK time (16.00 GMT), click here for a match preview.
This tie follows on from the 3-2 Europa League victory over Rijeka, earned at the 94th minute by Patrick Cutrone after a 2-0 lead was fumbled.
“I feel the air of a turning point. The team is shaking off its mental block and anxiety. I really liked the reaction after we went on 2-2 with Rijeka and would love that attitude for the full 95 minutes. Thursday’s game is an example of what we ought to be doing,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“It was important to find this courage and pride to fight back. In my view, that is a precursor to a real change of tack. If Gigio Donnarumma had saved the penalty and prevented the equaliser, we wouldn’t have had that fundamental learning experience.
“We can’t change tactics every time. After several experiments, this is the system that gives me and the players the most guarantees. Some will have to adapt, but the 3-5-2 is the system we are using.”
Montella was asked if Bonucci was feeling too much pressure to lead with the role of captain and previous Scudetto winner.
“I have asked myself that too. I’ve looked into it and that could be a way of reading the situation. The internal relations are very good and Bonucci is motivated by difficulty. I am not remotely troubled.
“Bonucci is not a problem and never will be. He certainly knows he has to improve his performances and was the first to admit it, but he is a resource for Milan and will be for many years to come.
“People seem think everything is Bonucci’s fault, but I know how to get the best out of him and his playing style. We need to improve overall in defence and this is a big test, so the players will be concentrated for the full 95 minutes.
“Roma have a super strike force and this match will give us a chance to make it a head-to-head in the table, which in recent years it hasn’t been.
“I wish Eusebio Di Francesco all the best – from Monday onwards – as he is a true friend. It’s strange for me to be up against Roma and for the first time not have Francesco Totti there.
“Every club has its moods, expectations and pressures, so I don’t see either us having an advantage or disadvantage. Rome is my home now, it cannot be a normal match for me with so much affection and so many bonds that still tie me to the place and its people.”
After losing two of his six Serie A games, against Lazio and Sampdoria, there is already talk of Montella getting sacked with Marcello Lippi and Carlo Ancelotti in the background.
“Things seem to be overblown. We are Milan, a lot is expected of us, and the club rebuilt the house over the summer with a revolution, so you need to start from the foundations, not immediately begin picking the curtains and having all the creature comforts in place,” continued the Coach.
“We’ve painted a few walls now, so eventually we’ll be able to put our feet up and watch television. If we are united and have patience, then we can get there, but some attitudes have been exaggerated.
“We must create a winning mentality, because some of the players don’t have that mentality, nor much Champions League experience.
“Expectations are certainly high for us, as we are Milan, but I think we are on track with those expectations, at least in terms of results. No squad that revolutionised the squad has become a winning unit straight away. It’s a bit over the top, but perhaps it motivates me more. I certainly won’t change my view of the situation.
"As for the reports of problems with (director of sport Massimiliano) Mirabelli, they are totally invented. Recently I've spent more time with him than my own wife - unfortunately!"