AC Milan make their long-awaited return to the Champions League this week on one of many greatest phases the sport has to supply, a visit to Liverpool on Wednesday permitting them to dream of Europe’s greatest prize as soon as once more.
There will probably be 13 European Cups between the 2 groups at Anfield, however whereas Reds have turn into one of many continent’s most feared sides underneath Jurgen Klopp, successful their most up-to-date Champions league in 2019, the Italian facet will run out for his or her first group fixture within the competitors since 2013.
They are in assured temper after a quick begin to the brand new Serie A season which has earned them an ideal 9 factors from their opening three matches.
Stefano Pioli, who has by no means received a significant honour as a coach, has a promising workforce on his fingers with the progress made since his arrival in 2019 crystalised by Sunday’s 2-Zero stroll towards much-fancied Lazio on the San Siro.
Asked whether or not his facet have been dreaming of going huge in Europe, Pioli mentioned: “We should only be dreaming at night, in the day we need to work hard to realise those dreams”.
The final eight years have been arid for the seven-time European champions, who haven not received Serie A in a decade and have been final topped the continent’s high workforce means again in 2007, once they beat Liverpool in Athens.
That was the final assembly between the pair and got here two years after the Reds inflicted one of the traumatic defeats in Milan’s historical past, getting back from three objectives down at half-time towards a star-studded Rossoneri line-up earlier than finally successful a historic remaining on penalties.
Since then Milan, by far Italy’s most profitable workforce in Europe, have didn’t get previous the quarter-finals of the Champions League and in 2019, whereas recovering from main monetary issues brough to the fore by a disastrous Chinese possession, even didn’t get out of a Europa League group which contained Dudelange, Olympiakos and Real Betis.
This 12 months’s group is a a lot harder proposition, with La Liga holders Atletico Madrid and Portuguese champions Porto additionally probably blocking their path to the knockout phases, however legendary Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi instructed AFP present coach Stefano Pioli is heading in the right direction.
“Milan have a difficult group, which will cost them a few points in the league. But the important thing is to win in this competition,” Sacchi, who twice received the European Cup, mentioned.
“I’ve identified Pioli for a very long time, as a result of he’s from Parma the place I labored for just a few years. Back then he was already a superb tactical coach, however he was one who could not fairly transmit an identification to his groups.
“He’s gone onto the next level now though, as his team has a style.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic hadn’t even begun his first spell at Milan once they have been final topped kings of Europe, as he was as a substitute firing their native rivals Inter to the Serie A title.
However, approaching 40 and again within the crimson and black of Milan for a second time, the Swedish star will probably be a key determine for Pioli after scoring on Sunday, seven minutes into his return to motion after 4 months out with a knee damage.
“He’s got this passion,” mentioned Pioli.
“I believe that apart from his evident talent it’s the passion, the fire that he has inside him that makes training for him a pleasure… When you’re like that you don’t feel the advancing years.”