AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is refusing to panic despite his seven-time European champions suffering a nightmare start which has seen them slump to second from bottom in Serie A.
Milan, who have lost both of their opening games, on Sunday entertain Serie A leaders Lazio, one of only two teams to have won their two matches. The pressure is mounting on Ancelotti, who knows that a title challenge is the minimum he needs to produce this season to save a job that is looking increasingly precarious.
Despite beating a poor FC Zurich in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, a result that will have been a welcome boost to confidence, it is in the league where Ancelotti needs to succeed.
He has been doing his best to convince all and sundry that things will soon start looking up. "This is a difficult period, but I can see a desire amongst everyone to get out of it," said Ancelotti. "The club is particularly closely bonded together, we're going through a period of self-assessment. At the last meeting there was a lot of self-criticism from everyone, I have also made mistakes. But we're on the right path to get ourselves back up."
Lazio's Serbia striker Goran Pandev thinks this is a good time for his team to be facing Milan, though, and he suggested that the northerners have lost a certain sense of fear they used to inspire in others. "I expect it to be a difficult match against Milan, they're a great team even if they've started badly," he said. "They'll be even more agitated than normal, and will want to win at all costs, but we just need to believe in ourselves and play our game. ."
While Milan are in turmoil, city rivals Inter look to have already started to take shape and resume their dominance, just three matches into the reign of former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. After a 1-1 first-up draw at Sampdoria, Inter beat Catania despite playing half the match a man down and then went to Greece in midweek and beat Panathinaikos in the UEFA Champions League.
Owner Massimo Moratti is feeling good about the new season and confident of securing a fourth Serie A crown in a row. "It's important to do well in this early part of the season. It was important to understand when the team had adapted to the tactics and psychology of the coach," he told local media. "I think they have, everything is fine. We're going forward with enthusiasm and the right sense of caution."
It is not just Milan suffering, though, as last season's cup winners Roma have only one point from their first two league matches, and lost at home to Champions League outsiders Cluj from Romania on Tuesday.
Coach Luciano Spalletti, however, is not worried. "Now we have to keep working even more seriously and professionally than before," said Spalletti, who dismissed any notions of quitting. "I have spent four years building up contacts and relationships and an atmosphere within this group here, and if I didn't have that I might behave differently. Here we have everything we need to pick ourselves up."