Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pedretti warns Auxerre not to be overawed

Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti on Tuesday warned his team-mates against being star-struck when they tackle AC Milan in the Champions League at San Siro on Wednesday.

The French team received a tough draw, also being paired with Real Madrid and Ajax in arguably the competition’s most daunting group.

While Milan have won this competition already seven times, Auxerre have never been beyond the quarter-finals and are competing in the group stage for only the third time.

And 29-year-old Pedretti doesn’t want his team-mates looking on in awe at Milan’s stars.

“We can’t be thinking about asking for the shirts of our prestigious opponents after a quarter of an hour,” he said.

“If we start looking up to the stands we’ll be impressed, but we’ll have our hands full on the pitch so we won’t need to look up at the stands.”

Pedretti says his side cannot afford to repeat the mistakes they made against Zenit Saint Petersburg in the play-off round, but he made no predictions about how far his team can go.

“We want to enjoy being in this competition and we’ll see at the end,” said the French international holding midfielder.

“Against Zenit we took five minutes to get into the first leg game and we’d already conceded. We need to make our first passes, win the first battles, that will give us confidence.

“We’ve got nothing to lose against Milan, it’s an amazing experience. We have to enjoy playing and if we stick together we can try to cause them some problems.”

Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez insisted that the pressure will be on the hosts, not the visitors.

“The pressure is on Milan’s shoulders not ours. They’re one of the biggest clubs in Europe, they playing to win the Champions League every year, they can’t afford to slip up against us,” he said.

“To give them problems we have to make sure we play a great match, like we did twice against Zenit, not like we did in the league.

“We need to defend as a team, that’s our strength, and if Milan leave open spaces on the counter-attack we could exploit those given the pace in our attack. And we’ll have to concentrate hard for 95 minutes.”

However, Fernandez was realistic about what Auxerre, who have not won in their opening five league games, can hope to achieve against the rossoneri.

“First and foremost we’re competitors, but then there’s the reality of the pitch, it’s Milan,” he said.

“Look at the quality of their players, their organisation, the ambition of the club that is strengthened by great players like (recent signings Zlatan) Ibrahimovic and Robinho.

“And they already had many talents like Ronaldinho, (Alexandre) Pato, (Clarence) Seedorf, (Andrea) Pirlo, (Massimo) Ambrosini, to mention just the best and without mentioning their defenders.

“But we didn’t get here by chance, we deserve it. We finished third in the French league with 71 points, we beat Zenit and that’s not easy.”

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