Allegri aims to finish year on top
AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has set his team a challenge: to finish the year at the top of Serie A.
Milan are already at the summit and three points clear of Lazio with just two games to go before the Christmas break. In fact, should Milan earn just one point over those last two games, then the Romans would be the only team capable of over-taking them.
Having won nine of their last 11 league games, following just one win in their first four, Milan have taken control of the Scudetto race and even sit ten points clear of champions and arch-rivals Inter Milan
And that's a position Allegri wants his team to get used to. "It won't be easy but if we manage to finish the year on top that would be much better," he said ahead of tomorrow's trip to Bologna.
"I expect two complicated matches. We're playing Bologna, who are doing amazing things, and at a strange hour [12.30 local time]. They're an aggressive team and they have [striker] Marco Di Vaio, we'll have to play with great intensity. And then Saturday 18 there's Roma, a team in direct competition for the title."
But to stay at the top in the long term, Allegri says his team must avoid complacency. "There's still a long way to go but we have to keep playing as we have done so far," he added. "And we have to keep the tension high, not just towards Juventus and Lazio but also Inter, Napoli and Roma."
That's something Milan failed to do in Wednesday's meaningless UEFA Champions League game against Ajax. Milan were already guaranteed second place in the group and a spot in the last 16 while Ajax were playing for a place in the UEFA Europa League. The Dutch side consequently ran out 2-0 winners at the San Siro and Milan were much criticised for an insipid display.
"We have to produce a different type of performance [against Bologna], me included," said Allegri. "We have to show a different image. It's a defect of Italian teams that they behave in this way when playing matches that count for little.
"I really hope that we've learnt the lesson, I hope that in that one night we realised everything that we shouldn't do and that we got it out of our system against Ajax." One player who came in for particular criticism against Ajax was Ronaldinho, making a rare start, but Allegri said it's not fair to blame him.
"He's been neither rejected nor sent away. It's normal that when the team runs and plays well that he also manages to do so. And vice versa when the team plays badly he feels it too."
Milan lost French midfielder Mathieu Flamini and Brazil centre-back Thiago Silva to injury during that match against Ajax and both are due to be out until 2011 but Allegri said he wouldn't be rushed into knee-jerk acquisitions in January.
"If it's necessary we'll buy someone in attack although our primary objective is to get Pato fit again. Thiago should be back in the new year but I don't think we've got big problems in defence, we have nine or ten players there."