Milan face decisive clash with Ajax

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Following Saturday's draw at Livorno, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri delivered a clear warning to his players ahead of their Champions League meeting with Ajax on Wednesday. Should they fail to demonstrate the required determination and intensity, their hopes of progressing may disappear quickly.

Despite their struggles in Europe in recent years, the Rossoneri have made a welcome habit of successfully navigating their way through to the knockout stages of the Champions League at the very least. It is frankly demanded of the club given their history in the competition, and anything less would be judged a failure.

-Silvio Berlusconi to focus on team

That, in turn, adds further pressure to the situation facing Allegri and the players at San Siro on Wednesday night, as they only have a one-point advantage over the Dutch giants, who proved to Barcelona what a dangerous proposition they can be.

Assessing the Group H situation, Mario Balotelli's late equaliser in Amsterdam could prove decisive after Ajax defeated Barcelona at home in Week 5. The Rossoneri require a draw or better to advance, but they must prepare with the mentality that only a victory will suffice.

Allegri alluded to that in his post-game interview at the weekend, emphasising what a talented team Ajax are while also reminding his players that perhaps attacking is the best form of defending.

However, the draw in Livorno provided grounds for debate and it is perhaps a criticism that detractors of Allegri have long held him accountable for. The former Cagliari boss insisted that without the right determination, Milan's quality "won't make the difference", but their inability to make their quality count has been a common theme for some time.

Regular disappointment against some of the provincial teams in Serie A has hindered Milan's progress so far this season. That can be attributed to bad luck or an ongoing problem with either the execution of a game plan or mentality, or possibly a combination of both.

Through the generational shift in recent years, Milan have undoubtedly become a more workmanlike outfit, which in turn allows the likes of Balotelli to make the difference.

There is no doubt that Allegri possesses talented footballers, but for some reason they are too often dragged into 'dogfights' where teams punish them on the counter-attack and have over time eroded the fear of playing against Milan.

Considering what is at stake on Wednesday, that is too dangerous of a scenario, as Milan can ill-afford to not only miss out on the prestige of playing against Europe's top teams in the knockout stage, but also the financial benefits that come with it.

In addition, a glance at the Serie A table will tell you all you need to know about how difficult it will be to return to Europe's top competition next season, and that should be further motivation for the players to ensure that their current European adventure isn't about to end any time soon.

Confident Milan can secure the required result Wednesday? Tactics or individuals -- what prevents Milan's quality from influencing games more regularly?

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


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