Gattuso offers his heart to AC Milan players ahead of pivotal derby

AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso has made a bizarre pledge to his players ahead of a potentially pivotal derby with Inter.

AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso   -  Getty Images

Gennaro Gattuso has said he will tear out his heart and let AC Milan's squad "play keepy-uppy with it" - provided they respect the club and show some pride in Sunday's derby with Inter.

The Rossoneri are on a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions but still go into the pivotal showdown seven points behind their city rivals, who sit fourth in the table.

Having triumphed 2-0 away at Roma last weekend, Milan reached the Coppa Italia final in midweek after overcoming Lazio in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

While Inter have struggled of late - winning just twice in their last 11 Serie A outings to dramatically fall out of the title race - Gattuso has warned his players not to get too complacent.

"If we want to think of a Champions League place, then this is like a final," he told the media.

"The thing I fear the most is the history of the derby, as usually the team that is struggling tends to win. I don't like people saying we are the favourites.

"Coach [Luciano] Spalletti scares me because he is a great manager. He has a lot of experience and is very prepared, so he knows how to face these types of matches.

"We have to be cautious. I fear the idea some could think we're suddenly fantastic and forget where we started from. We've done nothing yet and still need to become a team.

"We've got the potential to do great things, but must not lose that sacrifice for hard work. I will keep smashing them with that, even if they glare at me and can't stand it anymore, I will continue hammering at that nail.

"As long as my players show respect – not for me, but for the locker room, their team-mates and the club – I will tear my heart out of my chest and let them play keepy-uppy with it."

Spalletti has confirmed Inter talisman Mauro Icardi is "more than ready" to face Milan, despite not starting a game since January 28 due to a knee injury.

"Am I worried about Icardi? Absolutely," Gattuso replied when asked about the Argentine striker.

"He is one of the best strikers in the world. He moves in an incredible way, only a few are better than him. He never misses, he is a sniper. We must pay attention to [Antonio] Candreva and [Ivan] Perisic as well"