AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Wednesday’s opening Champions League group match at Liverpool with an Achilles tendon problem.
Ibrahimovic, who turns 40 in October, made a goalscoring return from injury in Sunday’s Serie A win over Lazio.
“After the match he had some inflammation,” said the Italian team’s coach Stefano Pioli.
“We hoped he could play but he still had pain so we don’t want to risk [playing him].”
Milan, the seven-time European champions, are making their first appearance in the Champions League since 2014 and have a perfect record in the Italian top flight after winning their first three games this season.
Prior to learning that the Sweden forward would not be visiting Merseyside, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised his tenacity.
“Zlatan. “What a player,” Klopp exclaimed. “I saw videos of him when he was injured a few months ago, and I saw him on the spinning bike fighting back, saying ‘Lions don’t rest long,’ or whatever [he said].”
“He’s a man for special occasions.” If he is unavailable, Olivier Giroud or [Ante] Rebic will step in. They’re all excellent players.
“Zlatan is one of the best players in this game’s history.” He is aware of this and expresses it to everyone, which I appreciate about him.
“Some careers end even with a little gas left in the tank, but he squeezes every drop out of his body.” He is exceptional in that he is capable of playing in every league in the world.”
‘This is the strongest group we’ve had’
In the other Group B match on Wednesday, Spanish champions Atletico Madrid will face last season’s quarterfinalists Porto.
And Klopp believes the quality of teams the Reds will face will make reaching the knockout stages of the competition more difficult than ever.
“This is the best group we’ve had since I’ve been at Liverpool,” the German added.
“In 2012-2013, I believe we had Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Ajax at Dortmund – that was a proper group.”
“This group keeps two really good teams out of the knockout rounds while delivering one strong team to the Europa League.”
“I’m never sure what people mean when they talk about changing the Champions League. I like the Champions League the way it is, and this group demonstrates that there are no games that make people wonder, “Do I really want to watch that?”
“It will be thrilling from the first to the last second.” I don’t see any early decisions being made in this group.”