Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ancelotti under pressure to deliver in UEFA Cup

MILAN: It may only be the UEFA Cup but AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti will nevertheless be desperate to get a good result at home to FC Zurich in the first round, first leg on Thursday.

Milan had openly stated prior to the season beginning that Serie A was its main priority, suggesting that the UEFA Cup - which Milan finds itself in after a poor fifth place finish in last season's championship - would be used to rotate the squad a little.

And while ideally that would be the case for Ancelotti, he badly needs a win to fend off the circling vultures beginning to congregate not so high above his head.

Carlo Ancellotti reacts during his team's Serie A match against Genoa on Sunday. AFP
Ancelotti is no stranger to the pressure of being in the Milan hotseat but despite winning two Champions League titles in his seven years at the helm, his return of only one Serie A crown is starting to catch up with him.

And while last year he managed to paper over the cracks by harking on about winning the European Super Cup and Club World Cup - which together entailed winning a total of three matches - Ancelotti needs to succeed this season or he is almost certain to face the sack, particularly with former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni job hunting.

But things could not have started any worse for Milan as it lost its opening two matches of the season, sandwiching a 2-0 friendly loss to a team from the Swiss second division.

Ancelotti, though, has remained defiant and believes he can turn things around.

"We've had a meeting with the management, the technical staff and medical staff," said Ancelotti.

"We analyzed the most suitable solutions to escape from this situation. There is a solution."

Milan's top brass are clearly worried as Ancelotti has had to meet with president Silvio Berlusconi and vice-president Adriano Galliani.

"Everything went well," he insisted. "We've found a solution."

That solution will have to exclude Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo who will miss the match against the Swiss team with a thigh strain.

It's another blow to a Milan outfit already reeling from a disappointing start to the season and some anonymous performances from their two highest profile summer signings.

While Ronaldinho starred on his debut in the home defeat by Bologna, both he and Ukraine forward Andrei Shevchenko - returned to Milan following a disastrous two-year stint at Chelsea - flattered to deceive away at Genoa on Sunday and were both hauled off at half time.

Milan is in danger of suffering the same league fate that befell it last season when a failure to win at home in its first seven scudetto encounters ensured it reached the winter break more than 20 points behind city rival Inter and out of Serie A contention.

Then it still had the Champions League to defend and once its interest in that competition was ended, fourth place and Champions League qualification for this season to fight for.

That having been missed, Ancelotti is under extreme pressure to deliver and anything other than a convincing win and a boost to sagging confidence could see the sharpened knives striking a fatal blow to his Milan tenure.

Source: China Daily

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