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Montolivo tips El Shaarawy to star

Riccardo Montolivo has backed Stephan El Shaarawy to tip Saturday’s Milan derby in AC Milan’s favour.

Riccardo Montolivo has backed Stephan El Shaarawy to tip Saturday’s Milan derby in AC Milan’s favour.

Question marks have been raised over whether the 20-year-old can forge a successful partnership in attack with Milan new boy Mario Balotelli following the ex-Manchester City striker’s prolific start to life at San Siro.

However, the midfielder dispelled the notion the duo cannot operate together by basing his score prediction for the inter-city clash on a winning goal from El Shaarawy.

“I think we will win 1-0 thanks to a goal from El Shaarawy, so do not write any more about how he is supposedly depressed because he always scores if Balotelli doesn’t,” Montolivo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I would not say (El Shaarawy has decreased in importance). Stephan is a mature guy, and he and Balotelli get along very well. On the field, I see no problems.

“Mario has grown up, I think he is now better prepared to tackle more challenging situations. I do not think that he will make the first foul.

“He’s always in the spotlight, and we try to help him. He can sometimes be a bit over the top, but as I’ve got to know him more at Milan and with the national team, I judge him as a good guy.”

Montolivo claimed Milan have more to lose against their arch-rivals than in their Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona, where they hold a 2-0 lead after the home first leg.

“I do not know if (the derby) will be more difficult, but we are focused,” he added. “We know finishing third is the objective and that Inter are perhaps our most dangerous competitor.

“Even against Barcelona, we had less to lose, and psychologically it was different. Now we have even more responsibility and are playing so many matches.

“Milan is a city where people leave you alone. The beginning was a bit difficult, but at the end of the day, our early results warranted criticism, much like how our praise is now justified.

“We have to just ensure we don’t fall into the trap of complacency only because we beat Barcelona.”

Sat 23 Feb, 2013
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