Vincenzo Montella says AC Milan will miss captain Riccardo Montolivo "perhaps more than anyone realises" after he suffered a serious knee injury on international duty.
Montolivo could be absent for the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Italy's 1-1 draw with Spain.
Montella will choose between Jose Sosa or teenage sensation Manuel Locatelli to fill in for Montolivo when Milan travel to Chievo on Sunday, but warned that whoever gets the nod will feel the pressure as they replace the skipper.
"I haven't decided yet," Montella told a pre-match news conference. "It is a pleasant decision to make, as they are both very good players who have slightly different characteristics.
"I fear we will miss Montolivo a great deal, perhaps more than anyone realises.
"If we win tomorrow, naturally we'll dedicate it to him, but right now we must work without excuses."
Milan lost to Udinese immediately after the previous international break and Montella is wary of another slack display against a Chievo side he believes are comparable to champions Juventus.
He added: "Chievo are particularly experienced, aside from the average age of the squad, as they know how to wait and soak up pressure before striking. They play for the result, so this is going to be very tough.
"In terms of organisation, they remind me of a small Juventus, as they have that same mentality. I know Rolando Maran well, we have great respect and admiration for each other.
"I read somewhere that Milan tend to struggle after international breaks, so we have to work hard and change that statistic.
"The squad looks more motivated and happy after the win over Sassuolo. If we win, then yes, I really could start to feel the pull of European qualification."