Mario Balotelli is set to start AC Milan’s game at Sassuolo on Sunday despite coach Sinisa Mihajlovic claiming the Italy striker lacks “the intensity” that is demanded of him.
Balotelli started and scored in the 5-0 win over Alessandria in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday in his latest attempt to kick-start a stuttering loan spell from Liverpool.
And, although he will get another chance to impress, Mihajlovic again questioned Balotelli’s desire – and that of winger Jeremy Menez – to be a success at San Siro.
He told reporters at a news conference: “Menez and Balotelli don’t have the intensity that I am asking for at the moment.
“The main thing however is that both of them try and leave their mark on the game and that is what I am expecting from them.
“In a Serie A game against Sassuolo, perhaps Menez would feel more at ease coming off the bench while Balotelli with his physical presence would be better in holding the ball up for the team. This is an idea I have in mind.
“I think Balotelli will start and then Menez will come on during the match.”
Milan have lost just one of their last 19 games in all competitions and have risen to sixth in the table. Mihajlovic expects another win against a team one place and six points worse off.
He added: “We’re fully aware that Sassuolo play good football and that they’re a dangerous outfit. They have got themselves back on track and it will no doubt be a very difficult game.
“But we have the abilities to compete and to win the match. Milan have never won at the Mapei Stadium, but as a coach I am unbeaten there.
“If the players keep up recent displays, we will win. When you are trailing in the table, the only way to make up ground is to win and at times even that is not enough.
“We have made up points on some of the teams ahead of us, but we know that we cannot afford to put a foot wrong. The next three matches will be crucial and they will reveal whether we can fight for third place or not.
“We will try and do our part. In my view, and I say this with enormous respect for them, we will finish ahead of Sassuolo in the table.”