AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli has admitted that he would rather have not drawn Napoli in the Champions League, but insisted anything can happen in that competition.
Milan and Napoli will square off in the Champions League quarter-finals and while both teams might consider it a good draw for different reasons compared to some of the sides that are left in the competition, both seemingly wanted a team from abroad.
One day prior to the draw, Milan captain Davide Calabria was asked about the draw and he stated that he would have rather had a team like Manchester City so the team can truly test themselves, but instead three games against Luciano Spalletti’s side beckon next month.
Pioli spoke on stage at the 18th Friends of the Children tournament event tonight, and he was asked about a number of topics from the failed Scudetto defence to the upcoming games against Napoli, with his comments relayed by our comments at SempreMilan.it.
On defending the league title: “I think winning back-to-back is difficult for everyone, I don’t think there are many teams in Europe who immediately win a second league title. We won with a very young team, thanks to a club project and path we are proud of.
“We are one of the few clubs with a sustainable project, only a few teams manage to win and be competitive in Europe. That’s a leap we haven’t been able to make yet but this year too gives us the chance to understand great things, to improve and be a stronger club.”
On the matches against Napoli: “We’ll play in the league on Sunday, but that’s another thing. There will be two more challenges in the Champions League. Napoli are a very strong team, there are great players, they are having a fantastic season but the Champions League is the Champions League. All eight remaining teams are strong, there will be difficulties for everyone but there will also be great stimuli and motivation to do well.”
On Napoli: “Honestly when in the summer they lost important players and had signed two strong players that weren’t known or appreciated in Italy, it was difficult to predict that they could play this way. Afterwards they have shown great continuity, strength and quality, they have all the characteristics of a great team. But no one is perfect or unbeatable.”
On Milan’s European DNA: “You can feel it, absolutely. It is part of the history of this club and of the path it has always followed. We are beginning to write our history, that of Milan in the Champions League is a different path from ours.
“When you go to San Siro to play the Champions League it’s something exciting and spectacular that involves everyone. We are very busy but we are also attached to the championship. To make this season a positive one, we have to play in the Champions League next year. You have to be careful”
On the draw: “Honestly, I’d rather not meet an Italian club. In the Champions League it’s better to face a foreign club. Napoli are very strong but we want to give it a go.”