Paolo Maldini shares more memories of Diego Armando Maradona and warns Milan ‘fought too hard’ to go out of the Europa League early.
The game with Lille kicks off at 17.55 GMT, click here for the line-ups and LIVEBLOG.
Before that, the first thoughts were naturally for Napoli and Argentina legend Maradona.
“He sent me a message just before his birthday, so it was only a few weeks ago,” Maldini told Sky Sport Italia.
“It’s hard to call him an enemy for someone in football, because you could kick him repeatedly and he would never react. He was incredibly fair in that sense.
“He also gave such joy to so many millions of people. He’s always been a controversial figure, but above all an icon for anyone who loves football.
“He was our biggest rival, in those years it was the Napoli of Maradona, Bruscolotti, Careca, Ferrara, etc, but he was the one who lifted them up another level. It was the great rivalry in those days between Milan and Napoli.
“I was just telling Ivan Gazidis earlier that during the warm-up, we all just watched Diego and his warm-up was all juggling with the ball. We sat there and watched, enamoured.”
Milan lost just one game since the lockdown in March in all competition, 3-0 to Lille, and they visit the French side this evening in the Europa League.
“We fought too hard to get here and can’t just go out in the first round. We had such an incredible run-up to get back to the top six, we had all those preliminary rounds in the summer, we fought too long and hard to just go out after a few games,” continued Maldini.
They make this journey without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is out with a thigh injury.
“Zlatan is a hugely important player, he helped us turn a corner, is our top scorer, and the growth of the team is also thanks to Zlatan. However, Milan are not just Zlatan and we’ve already shown that this team can be competitive even without Zlatan, so we are ready to make up for his absence.
“This is not yet a decisive match, but it is fundamental for qualification into the next phase. These lads have grown, what we’ve done is already impressive, but it is also not yet enough.”