AC Milan will make
their long-awaited return to the Champions League this week at Anfield when
they face Liverpool on Wednesday.
There will be 13 European Cups between the two teams at
Anfield, but while Reds have become one of the continent’s most feared sides
under Jurgen Klopp, winning their most recent Champions league in 2019, the
Italian side will run out for their first group fixture in the competition
They are in confident mood after a fast start to the new
Serie A season which has earned them a perfect nine points from their opening
Stefano Pioli, who has never won a major honour as a coach,
has a promising team on his hands with the progress made since his arrival in
2019 crystalised by Sunday’s 2-0 stroll against much-fancied Lazio at the San
Asked whether his side were dreaming of going big in Europe,
Pioli said: “We should only be dreaming at night, in the day we need to
work hard to realise those dreams”.
The last eight years have been arid for the seven-time
European champions, who haven not won Serie A in a decade and were last crowned
the continent’s top team way back in 2007, when they beat Liverpool in Athens.
That was the last meeting between the pair and came two
years after the Reds inflicted one of the most traumatic defeats in Milan’s
history, coming back from three goals down at half-time against a star-studded
Rossoneri line-up before eventually winning a historic final on penalties.
Since then Milan, by far Italy’s most successful team in
Europe, have failed to get past the quarter-finals of the Champions League and
in 2019, while recovering from major financial problems brough to the fore by a
disastrous Chinese ownership, even failed to get out of a Europa League group
which contained Dudelange, Olympiakos and Real Betis.
Sacchi hails Milan
This year’s group is a much tougher proposition, with La
Liga holders Atletico Madrid and Portuguese champions Porto also potentially
blocking their path to the knockout stages, but legendary Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi
told AFP current coach Stefano Pioli is on the right track.
“Milan have a difficult group, which will cost them a
few points in the league. But the important thing is to win in this
competition,” Sacchi, who twice won the European Cup, said.
“I’ve known Pioli for a long time, because he is from
Parma where I worked for a few years. Back then he was already an excellent
tactical coach, but he was one who couldn’t quite transmit an identity to his
“He’s gone onto the next level now though, as his team
has a style.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic hadn’t even begun his first spell at
Milan when they were last crowned kings of Europe, as he was instead firing
their local rivals Inter to the Serie A title.
However, approaching 40 and back in the red and black of
Milan for a second time, the Swedish star will be a key figure for Pioli after
scoring on Sunday, seven minutes into his return to action after four months
out with a knee injury.
“He’s got this passion,” said Pioli.
“I believe that apart from his evident talent it’s the
passion, the fire that he has inside him that makes training for him a
pleasure… When you’re like that you don’t feel the advancing years.”