The Slovenian put in another insipid display in Fiorentina's 0-0 draw with Pacos Ferreira on Thursday but his coach insists he must be given time to recover form and fitness
La Viola saw their 100 per cent record in this season's Europa League brought to an end in Portugal, with summer signing Ilicic putting in a particularly laboured performance as the Serie A side struggled to find their rhythm.
Montella, however, insists the midfielder has been unlucky with injuries since his move from Palermo in July and is confident he will soon see the 25-year-old back to his best.
"It was difficult to find space tonight as our opponents put 10 men behind the ball," he told Sport Mediaset.
"It's a shame we didn't win, but the boys worked hard to try and score until the 95th minute.
"He [Ilicic] needs to play, as this cannot be the Ilicic we know. He has been unlucky so far with the Viola, as he arrived with a few fitness problems and then picked up another injury straight away.
"This slowed down his process of settling into the team, but we will soon see him back in his best shape."
Fiorentina, who had already secured their place in the knockout phase of the Europa League prior to Thursday's clash, will finish top of their group if they avoid defeat against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk on matchday six.