MILAN (AFP) - AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf expects a formidable challenge from on-form Atletico Madrid on their visit to the San Siro for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday.
Seedorf took charge of the ailing Italian giants following the sacking of former handler Massimiliano Allegri in early January.
But after three wins in five league games and a quarter-final exit from the Italian Cup at the hands of Udinese, the jury remains out on the 37-year-old Dutchman who spent 10 success-laden years at the club.
Atletico, who are pushing Barcelona and Real Madrid for command of La Liga, are firm favourites for a win that would boost their quarter-final chances ahead of the return leg at the Vicente Calderon in a fortnight.
Nevertheless, Seedorf, the only player to have won Europe's most prestigious club trophy with three different clubs - Ajax, Real Madrid and twice with Milan - is relishing the challenge.
"It will be another great opportunity to take another step forward in the competition," Seedorf said on Friday after striker Mario Balotelli scored a stunning 86th minute winner against Bologna.
"Atletico are well organised, strong and have great forwards.
"But I know we will raise our game for the Champions League and I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with the San Siro that I got to know so well in this competition."
Whether the Rossoneri support can give Milan anything extra remains to be seen.
Atletico are currently on fire in La Liga, where striker Diego Costa, on 21 goals, is only one behind championship leader Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
And despite Balotelli's wonder goal on Friday, it was an otherwise tepid performance from the Italian giants.
Milan, nevertheless, have succeeded where both Juventus and Napoli failed in reaching the last 16 and Costa says Atletico will be taking nothing for granted.
"Milan are a big side with a great tradition and they know how to play these type of games," said the Brazilian.
"We need to produce a solid, all-round performance and go with the mentality we have had all season if we are to come away with a positive result."
Full-backs Filipe Luis and Manquillo are the only injury absentees for Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who played two seasons at Milan's city rivals Inter and three at Lazio.
Seedorf, meanwhile, is expected to welcome Kaka back into the starting line-up after the Brazilian forward's recent recovery from an injury knock.
Arguably Milan's most deadly weapon, however, will be Balotelli. Despite several questionable performances in Serie A this season the 23-year-old relishes the big stage.
Both Costa and Simeone admit the Italy marksman will be one to watch.
"There's no question about Balotelli's quality," Costa told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"He's a great striker and one of the world's best players. Our defence know that and will be doing everything stop him scoring."
"I saw the (Milan) game on Friday," added Simeone. "It was headed for a scoreless draw but was settled by a moment of genius. We need to be careful with him."