AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri insists his side are growing in confidence with every game that goes by.
The Rossoneri exited the Coppa Italia on Wednesday at the hands of Serie A champions and league leaders Juventus and face a stern test in the shape of Sampdoria on Sunday, but the 45-year-old is pleased with the signs of improvement.
"We are disappointed to be out of the Coppa Italia, but in Turin we saw a [Milan] team growing in terms of performance,” Allegri told reporters. “We must improve on set plays above all.
"Sampdoria are in great physical shape - and winning away to Juventus with a man down is absolutely not an easy task. They have two great strikers and are very organised. Angelo Palombo has brought more technique at centre-back.
“I still saw a step forward from Milan on Wednesday in terms of pace and passing. The players are getting more confident and working as a unit. I was happy with what the lads did, though of course disappointed with the result.
“Tomorrow we need a better performance than Wednesday, especially as Samp have had all week to prepare for this game.”
With a number of high quality stars leaving San Siro in the summer including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, the coach's target was to help bed youngsters into the team.
And with the emergence of hot prospects Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio so far this season, Allegri believes this gives the club cause for optimism heading into 2013.
He added: "I have an excellent rapport with the club, though clearly a coach is always tied to results. This season the task was to get the best out of young players.
“Seeing Mattia De Sciglio, Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Montolivo, Kevin Constant and also Kevin-Prince Boateng improve gives us optimism for the rest of the season.”
"Robinho only joined the full training schedule yesterday, so it’ll be difficult to see him playing tomorrow.”
With Milan lying in seventh place, the onus is on the Rossoneri to attempt to salvage their season by sealing a spot in Europe, but the trainer remained level headed about their prospects.
He continued: "Third place is neither a miracle nor a huge achievement. Our duty is to always give our best. It’s not easy to catch up with six teams, but at the same time people thought we’d thrown everything away after our defeat to Roma, yet we’re only two points behind them thanks to a game they were awarded by the authorities.”