Eusebio Di Francesco complimented Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan and insists the Champions League setback with Shakhtar Donetsk was an issue of “mentality.”
It kicks off on Sunday at 19.45 GMT, click here for a match preview.
“We must strongly desire third place in Serie A and go through in the Champions League. This is a very important moment of the campaign,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
The Giallorossi were leading away to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, but then crumbled after the break and were beaten 2-1 with Alisson heroics keeping the scoreline down.
“I want to clarify a few things that were reported and are not true. I never speak to the team after the game, I did not speak to the directors, I just had a brief chat at dinner. I only spoke to the players yesterday.
“I sent forth the message that we can go through in the Champions League and must rediscover the strength and consistency we had. I don’t even mean for 90 minutes, but for 70 minutes would be enough to win the game.
“If there was something personal said, it will remain personal. Our desire is together to build a mentality. That goes through many issues, such as rules, projects and consistency.
“I have to constantly stimulate the squad to focus and work the way they did up until the first goal. We did everything right before that, but one error we made in the first half proved decisive. It was a subconscious drop in concentration, it was not purposefully resting on our laurels.
“We lick our wounds and use the experience to learn from our mistakes and work on those weaknesses.”
Milan were also struggling earlier this season, but have been transformed under Gennaro Gattuso.
“They have a very strong squad, Gattuso has been able to make the most of their resources. Milan play good football, are well-organised and Rino deserves compliments for his work.”
There are reports Edin Dzeko could be rested tomorrow in favour of Patrik Schick.
“All the players are ready and Schick is one of many who could be in the starting XI. In normal squad rotation, there will be some changes.
“We tried Schick with Dzeko and it didn’t go well, but other times it could work. Schick and Dzeko are the two centre-forwards in this squad, whereas Gregoire Defrel is a bit more of a Joker in the pack who can have different roles.
“I always said that we could return to 4-3-3. It makes me smile that you ask me about Radja Nainggolan, as you harassed me to make him play trequartista and you’re still not happy. Aside from the system, Radja needs to rediscover the strength and determination. Attitude makes the difference and I am convinced he’ll get back to being the Nainggolan we all know.”
Di Francesco was asked why he sent Stephan El Shaarawy to the stands in the Shakhtar Donetsk game.
“More than the pedigree of what someone did in their career, the current form is more important, Stephan has been in these Champions League ties before, but physically and psychologically he was not on top form. As Alessandro Florenzi wasn’t well and we needed someone versatile like Gerson, with Schick capable of changing a game off the bench, I had no more room.
“I spoke to Stephan and must say he is a very intelligent lad who knows he has to find himself again.”
See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with Eurotips.co.uk