AC Milan are already assured of a place in the Europa League knockout round but Gennaro Gattuso said it is vital the ailing Italian side get a result against Rijeka to help boost morale.
Milan are away to Rijeka on Thursday, with their passage through to the next phase secured as Group D winners with one matchday remaining.
But it is in Serie A where Milan are struggling – the Rossoneri languishing in eighth position and 18 points off the pace amid a three-game winless run.
Milan’s poor form led to the sacking of head coach Vincenzo Montella last week following an off-season of big spending, the team’s hierarchy turning to fan favourite Gattuso.
Gattuso was denied victory in his first match in charge – a 95th-minute equaliser from Benevento goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli remarkably salvaging a dramatic 2-2 draw on Sunday – and the Milan boss knows there is so much to gain in Croatia.
“The match is important to us, not considering the standings, but on the psychological level. We need an important result,” Gattuso said during his pre-match news conference.
“The ones who have not played so much this season will have the opportunity [against Rijeka].
“I want to see desire. It’s an honour to play an international competition with the AC Milan jersey, and the players must feel the same.
“They have to work hard and bounce back. Today we prepared for this match considering the players who will be available.”
Gattuso added: “I have been working with the first team only for eight days and the physical condition cannot be improved in eight days. It’s not a consolation but we have to go step by step.
“The boys are giving everything and showing great desire. I decided not to bring some of the players because they have to recover. I preferred to give them some rest since we carried intense training sessions, both, yesterday and today [Wednesday].
“I expect to see the players with desire. The average age of this team is 21, yet, I want to see a sense of belonging. We can’t give the impression of being afraid of winning.”
“We know we have to improve,” he continued. “Some of the signings have not yet reached their full potential, [Franck] Kessie and [Nikola] Kalinic for instance. They are not playing as well as last year but we are all working hard to step up and I am positive we will get there.”