AC Milan may be going through one of their toughest recent periods but head coach Carlo Ancelotti is not panicking ahead of the visit of FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
AC Milan may be going through one of their most difficult periods of the last two decades but coach Carlo Ancelotti is not about to panic ahead of the visit of FC Shakhtar Donetsk, vowing: "I'm not going to make drastic changes."
The European champions are ten points behind leaders FC Internazionale Milano in Serie A and lost 2-1 at Celtic FC in their last UEFA Champions League outing to fall three points behind Group D leaders Shakhtar. In fact, the 2-1 defeat of SL Benfica on Matchday 1 is the only home win for the Rossoneri in all competitions this season, their latest setback being a single-goal reverse against struggling Empoli FC on Sunday. "We keep on losing our balance every time we don't manage an early goal, and this is a big mistake," Ancelotti said. "We must win more ball in midfield, be quicker in possession and gamble less in defence."
However, Ancelotti is not expecting Shakhtar to be as cautious as most visitors to Milan. "This game will be different because Shakhtar are a complete team with no weak points and will come to San Siro to play their own game," he said. "They have changed a lot compared to last season, adding talented players in midfield and playing very technical football with a Brazilian flavour. It will be a very balanced game because their coach, Mircea Lucescu, knows Italian football very well and will try to make our lives difficult."
Suspended goalkeeper Dida will be replaced by Zeljko Kalac while Giuseppe Favalli should come in for the injured Marek Jankulovski at left-back with Kakha Kaladze in the middle as Paolo Maldini, having made a comeback against Empoli, is not ready to play two matches in quick succession. Ancelotti's biggest concern, though, is last term's tournament top scorer Kaká, who is struggling with a knee problem. "He is a big question mark," Ancelotti admitted. "We still have one day, let's see if he can recover or not." If not, Alberto Gilardino and Filippo Inzaghi should start in attack.
Visitors in form
Unlike Milan, Shakhtar are flying domestically as well as in this group, though they suffered their first Ukrainian Premier League loss of the campaign at FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih on Saturday, also a 1-0 home defeat. Lucescu has no injury or suspension worries and is hoping for an improvement from key men Nery Castillo and Cristiano Lucarelli, the latter returning to Italy having left AS Livorno Calcio in the summer.
Lucescu is wary about a backlash from the holders, however. "Milan cannot afford to lose two home games in a row so the atmosphere will be hot," he said. "They will try to score early so they can open up space – they are lethal when they have space. They know Shakhtar are a good side with good ability. We will not change our usual approach. We cannot play like Empoli did here on Sunday. We are not coming to defend. We want to receive the plaudits of San Siro."