Sinisa Mihajlovic says Mario Balotelli will not be ready to face Inter on Sunday despite his goalscoring return to the AC Milan starting line-up against Alessandria.
The Liverpool loanee made his first start since September in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg and scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot late in the first half.
Mihajlovic has publicly criticised his side’s attack this season and was frustrated at their missed opportunities in Tuesday’s game, but he is nonetheless not prepared to risk Balotelli against Roberto Mancini’s side.
“Mario was never in the condition to play in a derby. He has to improve his fitness levels, as he’s been out for a long time. We will use the best available team,” he told Rai Sport.
“I’m half-satisfied. We had to win and we managed that, but we could’ve sealed the tie.
“We wasted some amazing chances. Alessandria knocked out Palermo, Genoa and Spezia, so we should have tried to end their hope in the first leg, but we wasted chances that seemed easier to score than to miss.
“The positive thing is we got some playing time for those who haven’t had much of a chance. It’s not easy for players to do well when they haven’t played much, but Andrea Poli and Jose Mauri had the right attitude.
“From tomorrow we’ll start thinking about the game with Inter.”
Balotelli’s reaction to his goal was customarily subdued but Mihajlovic says the striker’s choices must be respected, even though he has urged him to show some more passion.
“I’ve told him many times that football is joy and you have to celebrate when you score,” he said. “That’s the way he is and we must respect his sensibility on this issue.”
Luiz Adriano also started Tuesday’s game after seeing a potential transfer to Jiangsu Suning fall through, and Mihajlovic was happy to have the Brazilian at his disposal despite admitting a sale could have been in the best interests of all parties.
“We have clear ideas in the market and we know who will stay here,” he added. “I said at the time that Luiz Adriano’s transfer to China was advantageous for the player and the club, but obviously as coach I’m happy to have him here as he has always behaved well.”