AC Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini is confident of retaining the Serie A title and believes they can match anyone except Barcelona in Europe.
Milan won the Scudetto for the first time in seven years last season, but they endured a disappointing Champions League campaign as they were knocked out in the second round by newcomers Tottenham Hotspur.
However, Ambrosini remains upbeat about Milan's chances for the coming campaign and, though he admits they would struggle to match Barca, he is not giving up hope of another European triumph.
"Whoever wins the Scudetto is always the favourite to retain it," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I realise it's early and the teams are under construction, but we cannot hide. It's our duty to go for a second successive title.
"In Europe, I think at this moment Milan can compete with everyone except Barcelona, who are three levels above all the others. That doesn't mean we shouldn't target the Champions League, as it's a competition where anything can happen."
Ambrosini added: "We certainly need a replacement for Pirlo, even if someone with his characteristics would be impossible to replace. His absence will be felt on the field and in the dressing room.
"There are players who can turn a team from normal to great. Andrea is one of those players. I started playing with him way back in the Italy Under-18 squad. He is unique."