ROME (reuters) – AC Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi believes his injury-plagued side cannot afford to start thinking of European football next season as they attempt to rescue their dismal campaign.
While a Champions League berth appears to be out of sight after a wretched start to 2015, fifth place in Serie A and the chance of Europa League football is still a possibility for 11th-placed Milan.
At a news conference on Saturday, Inzaghi, reflecting on the injuries that have hampered the club this season, warned, “We can’t be thinking about it (fifth place) right now. We need to take it one game at a time and get back to playing Milan-style football.”
Rather than “Milan-style football”, though, fans at the San Siro have had to get used to unaccustomed struggles for one of European football’s powerhouses.
At the end of last year, Milan were seventh, just two points off third and a spot in next season’s Champions League qualifying round.
Now, having managed just five points in seven games in 2015 – only bottom club Parma have fared worse – they lie 12 points behind third-placed Napoli. Lazio, in fifth, are seven points clear of Inzaghi’s men.
As they prepare to face relegation-threatened Cesena on Sunday, Milan’s plight has left Inzaghi bemoaning the team’s injury woes.
“When 90 per cent of our players were available, we were very close to third place. It’s very difficult to find an identity when you have to change your line-up week in and week out,” he said.
One of the striking problems for Inzaghi, such a prolific goalscorer in his day, has been Milan’s lack of goals. Only once, in their last eight games, have they managed to score more than one goal.
“It’s not a question of how many attacking players I will put on the pitch,” said Inzaghi.
“It would be ideal to score early in the match. Doing so should allow the team to relax. Fans have been patient with us but I know how difficult playing in San Siro can be.”
Cesena are second from bottom on sixteen points but are enjoying their best spell of the season with wins against Lazio and Parma, as well as a draw with leaders Juventus, in the last four weeks.
“It has been the story of our season,” Inzaghi reflected ruefully. “We always seem to play teams when they are in peak form.”