Balotelli boost ahead of PSV test

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Rolando Otero/Sun Sentinel/Getty ImagesMario Balotelli is expected to make a healthy return when Milan meet PSV Eindhoven.

The fear was evident during the latter stages of last season, where those within the club continued to hold hope of overthrowing Napoli for second place. The prize would be direct qualification to the Champions League group stages, but instead, Milan's could only muster a last-gasp effort in Siena to clinch third place which means they must now face the play-off round.

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Ahead of the draw in Nyon on Friday, there were two scenarios that the club ideally wanted to avoid. The first was a trip to Istanbul to face Turkish side Fenerbahce. While that was indeed avoided, the second was not as the Rossoneri were paired with Dutch giants PSV instead, and it's fair to say the draw could have been kinder.

Nevertheless, with such rich history in the competition and the prestige that surrounds the club, Milan will enter the tie as favourites and confident in their ability to secure their place in the Champions League.

While the players will undoubtedly be determined to feature in Europe's premier competition, there are also the financial aspects to consider ahead of the clash. Milan will likely earn €8.6m alone just for reaching the group stages, with that figure set to triple depending on their success in the competition thereafter.

As a result, there has been speculation that this is partly the reason why Vice-president Adriano Galliani has been reserved in the transfer market thus far, but ultimately the priority at this stage remains securing a place among Europe's elite clubs.

The first leg will take place at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven on August 20th, while the San Siro will host the return fixture a week later on August 28th.

Meanwhile, Milan were handed a boost on Friday with news that Mario Balotelli's injury is not as serious as first thought, and he should be available for the first leg, provided he can find a sitter for his new pet pig "Super".

The Italian international will be fundamental this year, as he not only looks to help the club achieve its collective objectives, but to also continue his personal ascent toward being regarded as one of the top players in world football.

Much has been made of his development over the past six months since joining the Rossoneri, and judging by his reaction to being handed additional responsibility thus far, it would appear that Massimiliano Allegri can have no qualms about placing further pressure on his shoulders.

With regards to the opposition, PSV remain a dangerous outfit despite selling the likes of Kevin Strootman, Jeremain Lens and Dries Mertens this summer. While they have arguably failed to sufficiently replace that talent, they should not be underestimated as explained by Milan organisational director Umberto Gandini.

"The tie against PSV Eindhoven is the most important contest of the season. Reaching the group stage is an absolute priority but it won't be easy to progress. Even though they've sold some important players, PSV are a very good team.

"According to the UEFA rankings, they are the strongest team we could have ended up against," he concluded.

The mutual respect between the two clubs was evident from Phillip Cocu's comments shortly after the draw, as he stated that he expects a "difficult task but a nice challenge". However, with the pre-season trip to the USA ultimately acting as preparation for these two games, Milan must be fully focused from the off.

Confident Milan can overcome PSV? Judging from pre-season performances, who will be key in helping them progress?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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