Milan coach Gattuso talks up European win, takes swipe at Montella
AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso says his side need a good result against Rijeka in the Europa League on Thursday night as much as they need their "daily bread," while he has criticised his predecessor Vincenzo Montella for leaving him with a squad in such a poor physical shape.
Milan have already qualified for the round of 32 of the Europa League as group winners, but that does not mean they are not going to take Thursday's clash seriously.
After drawing 2-2 at Benevento on his debut last weekend, Gattuso wants to celebrate his first victory in charge of the Rossoneri, and in doing so, he hopes he can boost the players' morale levels.
"This is an important game for us," Gattuso said at a news conference in Croatia. "It doesn't make any difference for the league table, but on a psychological level, getting a good result here is as important to us as getting our daily bread.
"There will be a chance for some players who have not played so much to show me what they can do and I want to see these players make my job difficult. Anybody playing in Europe with a Milan shirt must always show respect and effort to the end."
Milan appeared to put in more effort in Gattuso's first game, but they ran out of steam late on and conceded an equaliser deep into stoppage time. This, according to Gattuso, is down to the poor physical condition of the squad he inherited from Montella, and he says he cannot perform miracles overnight.
"I've been working with this squad for eight days and you can't improve the physical condition in eight days," Gattuso added. "It's no coincidence that, after Torino, Milan have been running less than anybody else in Serie A this season.
"We're working really hard and this is the reason. It's not an excuse, but we need to take things slowly. We can't work too hard because then you put the players at risk of injury. The lads are giving me a huge hand and they are putting a lot of desire into their work.
"We're not in great shape physically, but we won't use that as an excuse because we know that we have to improve. The players who arrived in the summer are giving everything they can."
As long as he can see this effort and commitment, Gattuso admits he will be satisfied.
"The average age of this squad is 21, but I want to see them show me a sense of belonging and, in difficult times, I don't want them to give the impression that they are afraid of winning," he said. "I want a side who show that they know they are strong, even if we've still got a lot of improvements to make."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.