The Italy midfielder believes the young forward will emerge as the match-winner at San Siro, while explaining how there is more at stake than their European tie with Barcelona
Riccardo Montolivo has backed Stephan El Shaarawy to tip Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina against Inter in AC Milan’s favour.
Question marks have been raised over whether the 20-year-old can forge a successful partnership in attack with Rossoneri new boy Mario Balotelli following the ex-Manchester City striker’s prolific start to life at San Siro.
However, the midfielder dispelled the notion the duo cannot operate together by basing his score prediction for the inter-city clash on a winning goal from El Shaarawy.
“I think we will win 1-0 thanks to a goal from El Shaarawy, so do not write any more about how he is supposedly depressed because he always scores if Balotelli doesn’t,” Montolivo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I would not say [that El Shaarawy has decreased in importance]. Stephan is a mature guy, and he and Balotelli get along very well. On the field, I see no problems.
“Mario has grown up, I think he is now better prepared to tackle more challenging situations. I do not think that he will make the first foul.
“He’s always in the spotlight, and we try to help him. He can sometimes be a bit over the top, but as I’ve got to know him more at Milan and with the national team, I judge him as a good guy.”
Montolivo then diverted his attentions towards the derby itself and claimed Milan have more to lose in the race to finish in the Serie A top three against their arch-rivals than in their Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona.
“I do not know if [the derby] will be more difficult, but we are focused,” he added. “We know finishing third is the objective and that Inter are perhaps our most dangerous competitor.
“Even against Barcelona, we had less to lose, and psychologically it was different. Now we have even more responsibility and are playing so many matches.
“Milan is a city where people leave you alone. The beginning was a bit difficult, but at the end of the day, our early results warranted criticism, much like how our praise is now justified.
We have to just ensure we don’t fall into the trap of complacency only because we beat Barcelona.“
The former Fiorentina man also singled out teenage forward M’Baye Niang and coach Massimiliano Allegri for praise and addressed recent comparisons with Andrea Pirlo from Milan legend Paolo Maldini and vice-president Adriano Galliani.
He continued: “Physically Niang is ready for the top level, but he is still a boy. He is waiting for his first [Serie A] goal, but in the meantime, like El Shaarawy, he knows how to help the team because he has sacrificed so much.
“Andrea is one of the best in the world, and to be compared to him is an honour. He is the world’s best in terms of build-up play, but, having said that, I feel that I play the role in my own way,.“My coach is raising a young team. When I arrived, I did not know Allegri personally, but I can now say that he is very good.
I do not know what relationship he had with the players before, but I like working with young people. For me, he is the right man to guide this team.”