Zlatan Ibrahimovic must miss Milan's trip to Crotone on Sunday but his absence could be a blessing in disguise, according to coach Stefano Pioli.
Sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, the Swedish striker whose arrival at the start of the year triggered an upturn in Milan's fortunes must stay away from his Rossoneri team-mates for now.
Pioli has challenged the rest of his squad to show they can achieve positive results without the 38-year-old talisman.
And if they succeed, Pioli believes Ibrahimovic's current unavailability may show Milan in a new light, as a group who are not excessively reliant on the former Inter, Juventus and Barcelona frontman.
"I've spoken to Zlatan. He's fit and firing," Pioli said in a news conference on Saturday.
"He's training at home. He's very motivated. He's in touch with his team-mates.
"Clearly his absence will be significant and we will feel it, but we need to make sure this is an opportunity to show our progress.
"We need to show that we can still get results, so when Zlatan comes back he can rediscover an even stronger side than the one he left behind."
Crotone, promoted from Serie B, will be Milan's opponents. They are coached by a former Milan player in Giovanni Stroppa.
The newcomers were thumped 4-1 by Genoa on their return to the top flight last weekend, but will hope to fare better this time out at their Stadio Ezio Scida home.
Pioli saw his Milan side - without Ibrahimovic - given a stiff test by Bodo/Glimt in Europa League qualifying on Thursday, eventually securing a 3-2 win on the back of Hakan Calhanoglu's double.
Ante Rebic could take up a central striking role this weekend rather than occupying a station on the left, with Pioli predicting he could do "a good job" in the position usually occupied by Ibrahimovic.
Now unbeaten in 16 games, talk is turning to whether Milan are possible title contenders, but Pioli is cautious on that front.
He said: "We need to keep improving, we need to keep progressing, because we've proven we have a lot of quality and ability but we've highlighted some areas where we've made some mistakes.
"There are still some areas where we are less clear-minded than we need to be when it comes to decision-making.
"We need to be more compact, more focused and more aggressive, so there are a whole host of different situations we can improve upon.
"That is part of the developmental process. When you get to the highest level you can always try and do something more, go that extra mile."