AC Milan are group favourites, declares Spalletti

The Italian coach feels that his compatriots are the team to beat in their pool, as he eagerly anticipates his side's opener against Malaga on Tuesday
Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti has tipped AC Milan to win their Champions League group.

The Rossoneri have been paired with the Russians, Malaga and Anderlecht in Group C, and the trainer believes the Italian giants remain the team to beat in their pool, despite the departures of key players this summer.

"I think AC Milan are the favourites to win this group, even though they have lost two important players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva," Spalletti said at a press conference.

"Zenit, Malaga and Anderlecht are teams that can cause problems for Milan. I know how I will motivate my players to reach the next stage."

Spalletti then looked ahead to his side's curtain raiser against Malaga and stressed that Zenit will have to be at their best if they are to open their Champions League campaign with three points.

"We will only be able to discover Malaga's weaknesses if we play our best for the entire game. They have good, experienced players like Isco, [Martin] Demichelis, [Nacho] Monreal, [Ignacio] Camacho and [Javier] Saviola.

"This team always tries to control the game. Malaga have a great squad but we don't envy them – we are strong too. A coach has to instill a winning mentality, but the team has to win once the game starts."

The action at La Rosaleda gets under way at 20:45CET.