Zlatan Ibrahimović has warned the rest of Europe that he and his AC Milan team-mates are "getting better and better" after they sealed their place in the UEFA Champions League knockout phase with a 2-0 victory at AJ Auxerre.
The Sweden striker set the Serie A leaders on their way with a first-time finish from the edge of the area on 64 minutes, his ruthless eye for goal finally making the difference in what had been a tight and tense encounter. Substitute Ronaldinho then came on to curl in an added-time effort of his own, but it was Ibrahimović who earned the plaudits for his fourth strike in four games in all competitions and his 11th of the season.
"I feel good: physically I feel good and mentally I feel good," said the 29-year-old, who also notched both goals when Milan beat Auxerre 2-0 in Italy on Matchday 1. "Without my team-mates, it wouldn't be the same. They make it easy for me, they're helping me a lot, and I try to do the same for them, help them and do my best for them. Every game we play I think the team is getting better and better, so we'll carry on keeping our focus."
The former FC Internazionale Milano and FC Barcelona forward nonetheless recognised that the visitors had been given a genuine test before claiming a result that guaranteed them second spot in Group G behind Real Madrid CF. "It was a difficult pitch to play on and a difficult team to play against," he said.
"We had a couple of chances in the first half but they weren't really 100% chances, except that [Gennaro] Gattuso had a good one.
We walk out on the pitch to try to win every game and create situations to score, and when we got one in the second half we put it in.
"As a French team, [Auxerre] are difficult to play against and they play good football," he added. "If it hadn't been me [scoring], it would have been someone else and it would have been the same result. It's true I've had some luck against them this season, but the important thing now is to carry on and recover from this game."
The key thing for Auxerre, on the other hand, is to achieve a better outcome at Real Madrid on 8 December than AFC Ajax manage away to Massimiliano Allegri's charges. Do that and they will pip the Eredivisie side to third spot in the section and a berth in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. "It's going to be a special match," said the Burgundy club's forward Frédéric Sammaritano. "[Madrid] keep winning at the moment, scoring four, five or six goals per game.
"It won't be straightforward, but I don't think we'll go there like some teams in the Liga who show up to play Madrid at their own game. We'll be careful to keep our shape. Beyond that, they've already qualified while we're still chasing a Europa League place.
We'll need to go there with lots of determination and also make the most of the occasion, because it'll be an exceptional experience."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.