ROME, October 20 (Reuters) – When AC Milan ended an eight-year wait to qualify for the Champions League last season, he was hailed as a return to the continental top for the seven-time champion from Europe.
But with just three games remaining in their campaign, the Rossoneri face a momentous task to avoid elimination after losing all group games so far.
A 1-0 loss to Porto on Tuesday followed losses to Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, leaving the Italians at the bottom of Group B, four points behind Atleti in second, and the Portuguese in third.
Milan players and Italian media were unhappy that Porto’s winning goal was upheld, as Mehdi Taremi collided with Ismael Bennacer before Luis Diaz shot into the bottom corner.
“An ugly Milan but Porto wins with an irregular goal”, one could read in a title of the Gazzetta dello Sport.
But there might be few complaints about the end result, with Porto having 19 shots against Milan’s four.
“It was the worst of our three games so far,” said Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“There are three games left and as long as it is still possible, we will try. I have Faith. “
The absence of injured Mike Maignan, Theo Hernandez, Brahim Diaz and Ante Rebic, as well as suspended midfielder Franck Kessie, made Pioli’s task more difficult.
But now they have to win when Porto visit San Siro in two weeks.
EXAMPLE OF ATALANTA
Milan have not won a Champions League game since their 3-0 win over Celtic in Glasgow in November 2013, but they will likely need three straight wins against some of Europe’s top teams to advance to the round of 16.
It might seem unlikely, but the Rossoneri only need to look 60 kilometers east of Bergamo and Atalanta for inspiration.
When Gian Piero Gasperini’s side made their Champions League debut in 2019-2020, they lost their first three group matches to Dinamo Zagreb, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City in a combined score of 11-2.
However, La Dea pulled off a remarkable turnaround, collecting seven points from their three return matches to climb to second place and reach the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by Paris St Germain.
It was the first time in Champions League history that a team reached the round of 16 after losing their first three group matches, but offers Pioli’s side a glimmer of hope.
” We must believe. It’s easy to say, but it will be more difficult to put on the ground. We have zero points, but second place ahead of us has four points, ”said Pioli.
All is not yet lost. If Milan beat Porto at home on November 3 and Liverpool beat Atletico Madrid at Anfield, the Italians will be one point behind the Portuguese and Atleti with two games to go. They are not giving up yet.
Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie Editing by Christian Radnedge
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