AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli will do his best to make amends for their disheartening Champions League exit by guiding the Rossoneri back into the competition through Serie A once again.
Milan are keen to get over the disappointment of their failure to progress to the knockout stages – Wednesday’s victory at Newcastle was only enough to secure third in their group and Europa League football – with a home win against Monza that will help them maintain their pursuit of second-placed Juventus, currently eight points clear.
Back-to-back league successes against Fiorentina and Frosinone were followed by a frustrating last-minute defeat at Atalanta last weekend and Pioli wants a response to both setbacks in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off.
Pioli said at a press conference: “My big regret is that the team are not making the most of their potential right now, in Europe and in the league, so that’s what I must work on trying to change.
“This squad has so much potential, we created so many chances especially in the Champions League and lacked that bit of determination and quality. With that, we would have been here celebrating Champions League progress.
“Clearly, we can only now try to consolidate third place in Serie A and then try to do more. Our minimum objective is to qualify for the Champions League again, that is the very least we can aim for.”
Davide Calabria is suspended for the Monza clash after his dismissal in Bergamo so Theo Hernandez will be captain as Pioli tries to reckon with a defensive crisis.
Pierre Kalulu, Mattia Caldara, Marco Pellegrino and Malick Thiaw are all out injured, along with goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, and only one of academy product Jan-Carlo Simic and Simon Kjaer is likely to be fit enough to slot into the backline.
For Monza, Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Gomez is only two months into a two-year doping ban, with on-loan Torino defender Armando Izzo and Hellas Verona loan forward Gianluca Caprari among the key injury absentees.
Sunday’s visitors snapped a poor run of three games without a win by beating Genoa 1-0 last time out but away wins have been hard to come by so far for the mid-table side from the Stadio Brianteo.
Monza boss Raffaele Palladino said at his Saturday press conference: “We are satisfied so far but must keep our feet on the ground and improve on many aspects, such as being more effective in front of goal.
“Playing at San Siro is a source of pride. I believe Monza can do well and put Milan in difficulty. We are set up for this, to compete with anyone, anywhere. We must not be afraid of anybody.”