Allegri makes light of missing Milan players

17 September 2013 02:16

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri shrugged off a recent raft of injuries that has forced him to re-shuffle his side for a crucial Champions League group opener against Celtic on Wednesday.

Milan, seven-times European champions, have endured a mediocre start to the season and host Neil Lennon's Scottish champions at the San Siro without a handful of key players.

The Rossoneri will be without midfielder and skipper Riccardo Montolivo, Brazilian playmaker Kaka, striker Stephan El-Shaarawy and defenders Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio.

Although Mario Balotelli and Alessandro Matri are both available up front along with Robinho, the timing of the injuries could not be worse.

Speaking to media at the club's Milanello training ground on Tuesday, Allegri admitted he had only 13 fit players at his disposal ahead of a match which he says requires a "solid, all-round defensive display" from the Serie A giants.

"At the moment we've got 13 players available, with a question mark on (midfielder, Andrea) Poli," Allegri said.

"The only two areas I'm not decided on is in defence - I have to choose between (Kevin) Constant and (Urby) Emanuelson - and in midfield, where I have to decide between (Valter) Birsa and Robinho.

"I will choose tomorrow morning."

With Abate and De Sciglio missing, Allegri said Cristian Zaccardo would step into his back four alongside Frenchman Phillipe Mexes and Colombian Cristian Zapata, with either Constant or Emanuelson.

In midfield Antonio Nocerino, Dutchman Nigel De Jong and Ghanaian Sulley Muntari are virtually assured of a starting place, with Matri and Balotelli set to lead a two-pronged attack.

Except for a convincing 3-1 win at home over Cagliari, Allegri's side have flattered to deceive so far this season, losing their league opener away to promoted Verona and scraping a 2-2 draw away to Torino on Saturday.

However Allegri, who flirted with the sack during a disastrous start to last year's campaign before steering Milan to a third-place finish, remained defiant.

"Our injury list looks like a war casualty list, but I'm not overly worried," he insisted.

Allegri is counting on at least 50,000 Rossoneri fans to bring a much-needed morale-boost to the hosts.

"Celtic are a very physical team and very dangerous in attack. But we should have at least 50,000 fans in attendance, and the lads will respond to that by producing a great performance."

Source: AFP