After admitting last season's premature UEFA Champions League exit still haunts him, AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri warned that his side "cannot afford to make any mistakes" in the forthcoming campaign, although that resolve will be tested to the limit on Tuesday night, when they face FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.
For Massimo Allegri, 2010/11 was a season to savour; at the first attempt, the 43-year-old guided the Rossoneri to a first Scudetto success in seven years and brought to an end the hegemony of city rivals FC Internazionale Milano. It is an experience the former Cagliari Calcio tactician is keen to repeat, as he explained to UEFA.com.
"Last season was a great season, as we won the domestic title and the Italian Super Cup," said Allegri. "It was a fantastic campaign with lots of changes – a lot of new players arrived – and we have a great base to start from this season. I hope it is the first of many titles, although I know it won't be easy. It was a great satisfaction to come here and win the domestic title in my first year. And we are just at the beginning."
For all their domestic dominance, however, sparks failed to materialise in European competition after qualification from a group including Real Madrid CF, AFC Ajax and AJ Auxerre. Il Diavolo were eliminated in the round of 16 by Tottenham Hotspur FC, and it is a defeat that still sticks in the craw of the Milan tactician.
"We were deservedly knocked out," he said. "I'm still pretty disappointed about that result, and we really should have made it into the quarter-finals. So this year we have to try to do much better. The lesson we learned was that in the Champions League you cannot afford to make any mistakes. So next time we play a match like that we have to be better prepared."
Preparation will be all-important ahead of Milan's trip to Spain, where the European champions will test Allegri's charges to the limit. "How do you take on Barcelona? Good question. They are a difficult side to play, but you have to try to give your best technically, tactically and physically. I think that with [Antonio] Cassano, [Zlatan] Ibrahimović, Pato and Robinho we have world-class players in attack."
According to Allegri the arrival of one player in particular last summer proved critical to Milan's title triumph. Following his arrival from Barcelona, Ibrahimović scored 14 goals in 29 league matches – as well as four in the UEFA Champions League. "He is very important for us. Last season he did tremendous things, especially in the first half of the season. We won matches thanks to him, when we were not a team yet. We were on our way to becoming a team, and Zlatan made the difference."
Allegri will be hoping the Swedish international can tip the balance against his former side on Wednesday.
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