Alessandro Nesta has urged AC Milan not to sit back tomorrow night against Spurs and defend their lead but rather to go out and try score again.
Nesta is a man who knows what it takes to win on the biggest stage as he was on the pitch the last time Milan lifted the Champions League back in May 2007 in the 2-1 win over Liverpool in Athens.
He was also there when Milan played Tottenham in March 2011 in the second leg of the UCL quarter-finals, when the Rossoneri ended up losing 1-0 on aggregate to a Peter Crouch goal but did end up winning the league that season.
Nesta will be a pundit on Amazon Prime Video for the game in London tomorrow night with Milan having a 1-0 advantage from the first leg thanks to Brahim Diaz’s goal, and he spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport about how the team should approach it.
First of all, should Milan try to get everybody back and defend the 1-0 lead?
“As a former defender, in reality I find myself supporting the exact opposite. I would say not to defend myself as my first objective but to try and score a goal. I would attack rather than barricade, after all these are the characteristics of Milan. I would try to make it difficult the opponent, especially now that he’s not in his best moment.”
Milan’s moment says a lot: the attack is struggling and the defence, apart from Florence, has found solidity again. Isn’t it risky to attack Tottenham?
“Much better to go there and play for it. Precisely because the Milan defenders are better with the high line, on the contrary they are less good and find it more difficult to defend in the area.”
The defensive wall was raised once Pioli starting using a three-man defence. Is it a step forward in certainties or a step back in the quality of the game?
“Pioli has restored a sense that Milan had lost, they looked like a scattered team, which no longer pressed as well as it knew. So he restored unity, and then he didn’t change too much: with some tricks he restored order. The roles are more or less the same for Pioli: he proved humble, questioned himself and changed. Success hasn’t made him presumptuous.”
Thiaw emerged in the new defence, what is your judgement?
“Good player, who was ready. Thanks to the journey made over time with the coach. I’ve heard him reproached for not putting it in sooner but it’s fine for me. When you force yourself, and De Ketelaere is proof of that, often the right thing is not done.
“A long period of work proved Thiaw right: today he is reliable, solid, structured. Of course, he still has a lot to grow: he needs to speed up because he remains a bit cumbersome. But the profile is right, he was paid little and will become a player of important value.”
Thiaw against Kane must not be distracted even for a moment. Nothing is forgiven in the Champions League. Any advice for repeating the performance against Kane in the first leg?
“He has to be very careful, not to let himself be distracted even for a moment. In the Champions League, they don’t forgive anything, it’s a ruthless competition.”
Is it better Thiaw’s freshness and believing in Tomori’s redemption after the Fiorentina mistake or using Kjaer’s experience?
“I wouldn’t go after the individual’s mistake: everyone makes mistakes, it’s the department that has to work. I would confirm their trust even if it all depends on what kind of game Pioli wants to set up.
“With the higher defensive line the other three are better, with a deeper line it is better for Kjaer based on experience and readings. It’s important to play as a team: Milan got into trouble when they stopped doing it.”
How can Milan grow even further?
“For the transition from young champions to players of international prominence, matches like this are needed, in a different context, with more quality and pressure, with very high stakes.
“This team has shown that when it is about to fall definitively, it always manages to get back on its feet. That’s why I insist: go play, Milan are ready for this match. I expect more from Leao and Diaz.”
Are Milan favourites after the first leg result?
“I’m not saying this, it tastes like gufata. He has a good chance, the San Siro match said so. But be careful because in London it will be different, and it’s tough in English stadiums.”
Entering the top eight in Europe would be a technical success and in general one for the project that the club is pursuing. How can they grow more?
“Today it’s difficult to think of winning the Champions League but Milan can go on thinking match after match. This year they’ve had so many problems between injuries and new signings who have given little.
“But you can’t perform a miracle every year: if the budget is limited, Theo or Leao don’t always come out, there is also something wrong. If anything, the property should invest more, aware that the expense will then be repaid.”
Is De Ketelaere that ‘something’ that they risk getting wrong?
“At the end of the year he will have to reset: now he is in a tunnel, weighed down, lost, in difficulty. Go on vacation and then we’ll see.”
Would you have put Ibra in the Champions League squad?
“I met him in Miami, trained and highly motivated. From a mental point of view he is impressive. It would have been useful, but it’s easy to say it now. Some time ago the situation was less clear.”