Sampdoria v Milan: Honda braced for decisive clash

Keisuke Honda believes's Saturday's trip to Sampdoria in Serie A is a must-win clash in the context of Milan's stuttering season.

After a positive start to Filippo Inzaghi's coaching tenure, the wheels have come off somewhat of late with a three-match winless run seeing Milan slip to seventh.

Draws against Fiorentina and Cagliari came prior to Sunday's 2-0 defeat at home to Palermo, with sections of the San Siro faithful making their frustrations heard. 

Fellow European hopefuls Sampdoria have lost just once this season, with three points and three places separate the sides going into Saturday's encounter at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.  

Milan will be eager not to let one of their rivals for a top-five spot open up that gap further and Honda - one of Inzaghi's best players this term with six goals to his name - believes it is vital to get back on track.

"I think we have to win on Saturday against Sampdoria," he told a news conference this week.

"We have to show what we're made of, I think we can do it. We've started a new project under Inzaghi, I really like this team and I think we can do it.

"We played well for a lot of games [at the start of the season], but recently we haven't been creating enough chances to win.

"We’re at the beginning of a new project, Saturday wont be easy."

While Milan have stalled somewhat in recent weeks, Sampdoria have recovered well from their only setback of the campaign. 

A 1-0 reversal against coach Sinisa Mihajlovic's former club Inter was swiftly forgotten with a comprehensive 3-1 win against Fiorentina in which Mihajlovic switched to a 3-5-2 and made a host of changes up front.

Regular starter Stefano Okaka was one of the few forward players to retain his spot, with Mihajlovic describing him afterwards as "irreplaceable".

The former Parma man explained his team-mates were not going to take Milan lightly, despite their current troubles.

"Milan are a great club and a great team," he told Tuttosport.

"Although they have some difficulties, I am convinced that they come to play a great game.

"So we have to be careful, but we are not afraid. An eight-match unbeaten run can not just be the result of chance. In fact, we have shown that we can stand up to the big teams."