AC Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo insists he and his team-mates are aware of what is at stake when they host PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
A 1-1 draw in Holland a week ago has given the Rossoneri a slender advantage in the race for a place in the lucrative group stage of Europe’s top club competition, but failure to finish off the job at the San Siro would have serious repercussions.
Serie A rivals Juventus were the overall top earners in the Champions League last season with €65 million while Milan earned €51 million in reaching the last 16. Missing out on such riches would be a major setback, and that is without even considering the ambitions of a club which pride themselves on being the most successful in the world.
“We know how important this game is,” Montolivo said at the pre-match press conference. “We are aware of our responsibility and we feel it. We need to play for our pride because we want to play in the Champions League above and beyond the financial aspect.
“There’s a strong feeling of responsibility. We need to think that playing in the Champions League is one thing, playing in the Europa League is another, but we need also to be serene to do well on the field. We’re confident.”
A 2-1 defeat to Hellas Verona on the opening day of the Serie A season laid bare Milan’s defensive limitations and coach Massimiliano Allegri hopes that his side can prove that was just a one-off on Wednesday.
“As Riccardo has said, the Champions League is different to the Europa League,” Allegri said. “I think I have a squad of responsible players and Verona was only a stumble. We know how important this game is and we’re up against a side who play good football and who have already created us problems.
“We need to think about winning this game and not conceding. We cannot just play a defensive game. We need to bounce back from Verona immediately with a good performance against Eindhoven.”
Robinho, who made his return from injury against Hellas, is a candidate to lead the line for Milan along with Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy.