AC Milan believe they can qualify for the Champions League next season after a turnaround in their fortunes under Gennaro Gattuso, according to general manager Marco Fassone.
The Rossoneri are unbeaten in 2018 and are now just seven points adrift of fourth-place rivals Inter Milan with 12 games of the season still to play.
They face the Nerazzurri on Sunday and, after winning 2-0 at Roma on Sunday night, Fassone believes they must now count themselves as challengers for a top-four finish.
“We’ve got to believe in it,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “You must never say never in football and the gaps have reduced. On the one hand, there is the prudence of a general manager with regards to the accounts, but on the other hand, there is the optimism of a group who need to believe in the results.
“The lads believe in it and [Gattuso] has the desire, so let’s look forward, and why not?”
After a tricky first few games in charge, Gattuso now has Milan on an eight-game Serie A unbeaten streak that even Fassone admitted has surprised him.
“Gattuso has done the simple things and he is a coach who has talent and maybe we didn’t expect that the team could recover in such a way,” Fassone said. “We need to take our hats off to the work he has done so far and compliment [sporting director Massimiliano] Mirabelli on his choice.
“But let’s keep our feet on the ground. We need to keep quiet and cross our fingers. I don’t want to dream too much. I just hope that this team keeps playing well and gains more conviction in their means, thinking first to the game against Lazio, where there is a place in the final at stake.”
Milan remained in Rome following their Serie A win on Sunday to prepare for the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal with Lazio on Wednesday.
However, those preparations suffered a setback on Monday when the Italian capital was brought to a standstill by rare snowfall, much to Gattuso’s frustration.
“We are a little annoyed because it had not snowed in Rome in years,” Gattuso told Milan TV. “We’ve worked in the gym, but I’d have preferred us to work on the pitch. We are still very focused on Wednesday’s clash. The last win helps us to feel confident but we have several tough matches ahead of us. We must recover our energy and think about our upcoming games.
“We have to raise the bar because we will face tough opponents who have very strong players. We have to show we are ready for the big matches as we have been doing during the last months. However, what we’ve done is important but is in the past. Now we have to look forward.”
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.