AC Milan boss Vincenzo Montella has vowed to put his friendship with Roma counterpart Eusebio Di Francesco to one side for Sunday’s Serie A clash at San Siro.
Montella and Di Francesco played together for the Giallorossi in the title-winning team of 2001 and, years earlier, they were trainees together at Empoli.
Milan have made an unspectacular start to the season, despite a summer spending spree of over 200 million euros, and Montella admits the critics are starting to chip away at his side’s confidence.
And 43-year-old Montella, speaking at the pre-match press conference, said he would not be going easy on his long-time friend.
In quotes reported on the club’s Twitter account, he said: “I’d like to greet Eusebio, who is a true friend. I wish him good luck – but from the day after tomorrow.
“Unfortunately, the players do get negatively affected by the critics. I have to calm them down so they don’t lose confidence.
“The expectations are higher than last year’s, but we are in line with our objectives. Every new team needs time.”
Milan were expected to storm straight back into Champions League contention after signing the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Andre Silva this summer.
However, they currently find themselves in sixth place after losing last time out in the league to Sampdoria.
Much has been made of Bonucci’s early performances but Montella has faith in the former Juventus centre-back.
“Bonucci knows he needs to improve, he is an asset to us,” said Montella, who is likely to be without Andrea Conti, Riccardo Montolivo and Luca Antonelli.
“He has a winning mentality and will help us to win. We will continue playing in a three-man defence. This is the system of play that gives us more security.
“Roma have only lost one game, so there is little to say. They have a super attack and we wish to play a good match.”
Roma are currently level on 12 points with Milan but the Giallorossi are on a run of four-straight wins in all competitions.
Diego Perotti and Gregoire Defrel will both be missing for the trip, though, and join Patrik Schick and Rick Karsdorp on the treatment table.
Stephan El Shaarawy will be a key player for Roma and the Italy winger has called on his side to “send out a message” at San Siro.
He told the club’s official website: “We want to show everyone that we’re growing as a team and make sure the teams above us know that we’re going to be fighting at the top of the table too.
“We want to prove that we’re ready to compete at the top. It’s a vital match because we need to send out a message to the rest of the league and to ourselves.”