Sinisa Mihajlovic heads back to Sampdoria for the first time on Thursday as the AC Milan coach looks to ease the building pressure on his position with victory in the Coppa Italia round-of-16.
The Serb departed the Luigi Ferraris during the close-season to replace Filippo Inzaghi but a run of one win from the last five Serie A matches leaves Milan seventh, seven points adrift of the top three.
Despite only one defeat in their last nine in all competitions – 1-0 to reigning league champions Juventus – Mihajlovic’s future at San Siro is reportedly under threat if things do not change quickly, and a cup exit could be the final straw.
“We have to react,” said midfielder Andrea Bertolacci. “We have to pick ourselves up.
“We are a strong team, we have to get out of this situation together. We are targeting the Italian Cup, but it will not be easy because Sampdoria at home are a strong team.”
Mihajlovic will take heart from the recent league meeting between the two sides when Milan convincingly brushed Samp aside 4-1, M’Baye Niang netting twice back in late November.
After their disastrous 10th-place finish in Serie A last season, Milan – who expect to be without Mario Balotelli and Alex through flu – have already played twice in the Coppa Italia this season, claiming a third-round win over Perugia and an extra-time triumph against Crotone last time out.
Samp, on the other hand, are making their bow in this year’s competition, and will hope to do better than in 2014 when Milan’s city rivals Inter knocked them out at this stage.
The form book does not make pretty reading for the Genoa-based club at the moment, with new head coach Vincenzo Montella yet to taste victory in his four matches in charge.
Samp have not won since late October but ended a run of four successive defeats on Monday with a 1-1 draw against Lazio, Ervin Zukanovic snatching a point deep into stoppage time.
“The most important thing was to rediscover the team,” said Montella, who will face either former club Fiorentina or Carpi in the last eight should his side progress. “We have to continue with these characteristics.
“The team’s objective must be to maintain the attitude they showed [against Lazio]. That’s the biggest victory. In the coming weeks we’ll definitely concentrate more on the attacking phase.
“I think it’s easier and faster to organise a team defensively as opposed to in attack. Attacking organisation definitely takes more time, which I don’t have at the moment.”