Defeat in the Derby della Madonnina would not sound a death knell for AC Milan’s title challenge, according to head coach Vincenzo Montella.
Despite spending over 200 million euros on new players in the summer, Milan have already lost three Serie A games, a run which has left them nine points off the pace set by early leaders Napoli.
Their opponents at San Siro on Sunday are city rivals Inter Milan, who are just two points off top spot thanks to an unbeaten start featuring six wins from seven matches.
Such is the sense of disappointment around the Rossoneri that Montella’s long-term job security has been called into question, but the former Roma and Sampdoria boss is not interested in paper talk.
He told acmilan.com: “Would a defeat be almost irreparable? No, there’s still a long way to go to the end of the season and besides, before a match, I only have the win in mind.
“We mustn’t be anxious, we need the right grit and determination, but have to be cool, calm and collected, although we know the importance of this match for both clubs.
“I have now played and coached in several derbies, there’s a lot of pressure but that’s highly motivating. We need to focus on ourselves and not on our opponents.”
On Inter, Montella added: “The seven-point gap between the two teams doesn’t do us justice, and we have to prove that on the pitch.
“They are a well-balanced team, with experienced and pacey players.
“We have to prevent them from crossing the ball in, playing up the pitch and closing down the spaces they like to attack from.
“Is there a player I would want Inter not to have? Ivan Perisic.”
Unfortunately for Montella and Milan, the Nerazzurri do have their Croatian talisman available and indeed Inter head into the first derby of the league campaign with only Marcelo Brozovic missing.
For Milan, Turkish free-kick expert Hakan Calhanoglu is suspended.
Inter coach Luciano Spalletti is not too interested in personalities and instead focused his praise on the team work his players have displayed over the last few months.
“Who’s my key man?” the Tuscan tactician said on inter.it. “The group. Whoever it ends up being, that’s fine with me.
“Everyone contributes to getting the team playing at their best. Team work is the only way to get results. The more effort you make, the more luck you will have.
“To win the derby gives you three points and enthusiasm if you know how to harness it properly.
“Our season will be measured against extremely important moments such as the derby, so we have to go out and play and give our all. No excuses, I expect them all to get it done.”