Allegri warns his squad that Auxerre will be no push-over

After shock defeat AC Milan manager tells defence they must improve for tonight's Champions League clash
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The Independent Online

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be hoping for a better Champions League debut than his first Serie A match with AC Milan where he missed a penalty during the loss to a newly promoted team.

Milan hosts Auxerre in Group G today, four days after a 2-0 defeat at Cesena in which Ibrahimovic hit the post from a late spot kick.

"Cesena had two chances and took them both," Ibrahimovic said, "but I'm still convinced we can win everything." The result leaves Milan in seventh place following a 4-0 win over Lecce on the opening day of season.

"We never expect to come second, neither me nor the players," coach Massimo Allegri said. "I am sure we won't make the same mistakes we made on Saturday.

"Auxerre is a good team that above all concedes few goals away from home and so we need a big game. Our confidence is fine. We have spoken about and analysed the match against Cesena. Ibrahimovic has been thrown in the deep end," Allegri added. "It is a new team and a new system, but he has worked hard to get used to how things are done here."

Milan may be without central defender Thiago Silva. The Brazilian came off at half-time after straining a muscle in his right leg and will be monitored ahead of the match.

"Just before halftime I felt pain in my right leg," he said. "So we decided it would be better if I went off as we had an important match on Wednesday. I was a bit concerned because I haven't felt a pain like that for some time."

Alessandro Nesta is expected to return to the line up after missing the Cesena match with an inflamed sciatic nerve, with Daniele Bonera ready to step in if Silva is unable to play.

"It won't be easy against Auxerre tomorrow night," Allegri said yesterday. "We have to ensure we are more concentrated in defence. We will keep checking on Thiago Silva's condition and then make a decision."

Clarence Seedorf is likely to return to provide the midfield with a more attacking edge, in front of Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini.

Auxerre,go into the game struggling for form in the French league, sitting in 17th place with four points from five matches. "Football can be cruel sometimes," their coach Jean Fernandez said after Caen equalized in the last minute to earn a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Auxerre will be without suspended forward Roy Contout and striker Alexandre Licata is out with an ankle injury. Auxerre reached the group stage for the first time since 2002 with a 2-1 win over Zenit St. Petersburg in a playoff, but will carry the underdog tag after being drawn alongside Milan, Real Madrid and Ajax.

"The Champions League is a machine that is quite capable of crushing you," Fernandez said. "But nevertheless it is an incredible thing for a club like us. We are not set up to compete at this level. We set out to survive in the French league and do as well as we possibly can. Our aim in this group is just to make sure we are not ridiculed. That is not a lack of ambition, we are just being realistic."

The Milan trip will bring back good memories for Fernandez, though. The coach spent several days at Milan's training base in his formative years, meeting with celebrated manager Arrigo Sacchi. "I had a great time there," Fernandez said. "Arrigo Sacchi was one of the masters of total football and of attacking football. I was never the same after I came away from there. My philosophy of football changed."

Jose Mourinho's pledge to bring a record 10th European Cup to Real Madrid receives it first test tonight when the Spanish club faces Ajax in the group stage of the Champions League. Mourinho is looking to win European club football's top prize with a third different team after guiding Inter Milan to victory last season and winning the title with FC Porto in 2004.

"I am not at all relaxed because it is the Champions League and Ajax have already played four matches in the competition and 10 official games in total," said Mourinho, who has vowed to bring Madrid its first Champions League title since 2002.

"They should be somewhat more fit that us," the Portuguese coach added. "We are the favourite and we must win because it is crucial to get off to a good start in the Champions League.

"Ajax's style of play is different to that of Osasuna, so it should be quite a different match. They have some very talented players."

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