Italian Football Association (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete and vice-president Demetrio Albertini have both expressed concern after AC Milan drew PSV Eindhoven in the play-off round of the Champions League.
The Rossoneri need to overcome the Dutch side if they are to ensure Serie A provides three participants in Europe’s elite club competition this season.
Italy’s top flight can ill afford to send only two teams into the group stages for a second year running after Udinese failed to beat Sporting Braga in the final qualifying round a year ago.
However, Abete believes there is an unlevel playing field at this stage of the tournament.
The Eredivisie started a week ago and PSV will already be into their rhythm when they meet Milan on August 20 and 28. By comparison, Serie A is the last of Europe’s big leagues to get underway on August 24, when Milan face Hellas Verona.
“It’s not a question of whether Milan are good enough to win, but of how ready they are,” Abete told Sky television. “It’s the same for Fiorentina and Udinese [in the Europa League]. They’ve all been drawn against strong opponents, but if our teams are in good enough shape, then they should be strong enough.”
Albertini lifted the Champions League twice as a Milan player, but he too fears his former club could struggle to cross the final hurdle on their way into the riches of the competition.
“They are tough opponents,” he said. “Dutch football is all about keeping possession and when you are not in the best of shape, it’s hard to chase after your opponents. Their league season has already started and they are going to be more ready physically.”
Nevertheless, the 2007 Champions League winners will go into the two-legged tie as favourites.
“It’s a very difficult tie, but we are Milan. Respect everybody, but fear nobody,” Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy said on Twitter.
PSV...sfida molto difficile ma noi SIAMO IL MILAN, rispetto per TUTTI, paura di NESSUNO :)— Stephan El Shaarawy (@ShaarawyOficial) August 9, 2013