Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing as AC Milan return to Champions League at Anfield

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AC Milan rejoin Europe’s elite without the star power of injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic but coach Stefano Pioli believes they will prove they are worthy of their place.

The seven-time European Cup winners return to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 with a trip to Anfield to play Liverpool.

Ibrahimovic, who only made his comeback from four months out with a knee injury on Sunday against Lazio, has been left at home due to an Achilles problem.

And while the 39-year-old Swede may be their talisman Pioli insists they have gained enough important recent experience to be able to compete with more established sides after three Europa League campaigns in four years.

“Zlatan wanted to join the match (against Lazio) and of course after the match he had some inflammation,” said Pioli.

“We hoped he could play but he still had pain so we don’t want to risk tomorrow as it’s a very important match and we have so many matches.

“We are very sorry for Zlatan because he always wants to play but he will be back soon.

“We are very well prepared. We had the Europa League and all those experiences allowed us to improve, to make mistakes and to grow.

“We are playing at a higher level but this is what we hoped for. This is a great opportunity for us, by raising the bar we can actually perform well.

“Though we have not played in the Champions League we know what to do.

“The group is very difficult and competitive with great experience in Europe but we want to write our history from tomorrow. We are very convinced about ourselves.”

Milan’s 32-year-old captain Simon Kjaer, who only has seven Champions League appearances to his name despite his vast experience, believes they have to make a statement against Jurgen Klopp’s side.

“It is going to be a difficult match but in my opinion we need to go there and play like AC Milan,” he said.

“We are there to demonstrate we are not on holiday. We are there to do something.

“This match is very special because we are back in the Champions League and we will play with great pleasure but we need to demonstrate we are back in the Champions League.

“We are in a very good position in our pathway and we have grown up so much, but we have to show that. We need to have the mindset that we can play against any team.”

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