Pioli assures Bennacer ‘is fine’ and previews Juve clash: “Important but not decisive”

By Isak Möller -

On the eve of the clash between AC Milan and Juventus, Stefano Pioli spoke to the media at the usual press conference. It’s an important game for the Rossoneri, keen on bouncing back from the recent defeat. 

The manager will be able to rely on a strong XI for the game as the likes of Alessio Romagnoli and Ismael Bennacer are back at his disposal. The latter isn’t expected to start but could come off the bench during the game.

Speaking to the media, as transcribed by MilanNews, Pioli shared his thoughts on the Juventus clash but also the derby vs. Inter after the break. Furthermore, he shared an update on the returnees, especially Ismael Bennacer.

The past is an important historical memory but I know that you only think about the present. Milan will head into tomorrow’s game ahead of Juventus. Is it a testament to the work you are doing?

“Yes. It is an aspect that demonstrates the work we are doing as it is evident that Juventus are now in an important moment, compared to the beginning of the season. We will have to put in a great performance.”

Is it a key match for Milan and different from the others?

“It’s an important match but not decisive. Juventus are showing their strength, being able to win tomorrow would be important for the standings.”

How are the returnees?

“There are three important returns in Calabria, Bennacer and Romagnoli. Isma only trained with the team this morning but he’s fine. We are all ready, as is Ibrahimovic, for tomorrow’s match.”

Are Theo’s words about the growth flattering?

“I think it is part of the coach’s job to raise young players who need to be guided and advised. One of my responsibilities is to make my players express themselves to the maximum. It is a relationship of giving and taking, they must give everything for the team and achieve great results.”

Do you like the idea of ​​playing Ibra as a No.10?

“No, not now and not at the beginning of the game, we have our balance already. Then, once the game is in progress, it can be a solution.”

What do you think about Brahim Diaz’s involution?

“He had a drop in condition before the break, now he has regained his brilliance and has fresh and perky little legs as at the beginning of the season. He has not been decisive with the ball in the last few games, but he has been decisive with the movements without the ball.”

What are the qualities with which Milan can overcome Inter and Juve?

“We have many qualities, especially on a technical and mentality level; we play with great energy and vitality. Then there are difficulties, but they can be overcome if you play as a team.”

Is there any news on the market after the defeat against Spezia?

“Ours is a medium/long term project. A match doesn’t change our opinion of the players. If there is the possibility of improving we will do it, what matters is tomorrow’s match.”

Is Juve’s management attitude, similar to that of Milan, good for the league?

“The moment that the clubs are experiencing during the financial pandemic can be seen in the match against Spezia and those of tomorrow, without fans the clubs earn less money. We are developing a project of mixing young and experienced players. We are back to being competitive but we miss the final step.”

Ibra hasn’t scored at San Siro since September: is there a tactical-technical reason?

“As far as Zlatan is concerned, he had his chances but he didn’t take advantage of them. Against Juventus, we won’t have loads of chances but there will be situations in which he can be decisive.”

Do you think the referee will be able to take the field in an uneventful way tomorrow?

“No, that doesn’t have to happen. Tomorrow is another match and we start from 0-0. The referee will have to try to referee in the best possible way, with great seriousness, ability and serenity.”

What kind of week was it in getting past the game against Spezia?

“It was a week of intense work, on the pitch and analysing. We need to be more attentive, precise and decisive. We need great attention and participation: if we want to achieve excellence, normality does not lead us to excellence. We need technique, physique, mentality, tactics.”

In 18 games against Allegri, you have never won. Is it a further stimulus?

“I shouldn’t look back too much. The past doesn’t count but only tomorrow’s game. It’s a negative figure to try to change immediately.”

Tonali was missed: is he the real Milan captain?

“His maturation is not over, he is working hard to grow. Captain of the present or of the future? I have many players attached to what we do: it is not important who wears the armband.”

Would you be happy if no defender arrives?

“If there is a chance to improve the squad, the club has always been ambitious and ready to seize opportunities. Tomori’s injury has put us in some difficulty but I am very happy with my players. Tomori will be back soon.”

Will it be possible to see Leao and Rebic together?

“For now, either play one or play the other, but while the game is in progress there may be other solutions.”

What differences will there be compared to the first leg?

“Juve have grown and are in a positive moment, but we are fine too. We will have to fight ball by ball and inch by inch.”

How did the players react to Spezia defeat?

“I have seen attentive and determined players. I expect an attentive and determined game. The parallels between last year and this struggle carry us forward but last year the game against Spezia was the worst, this year not.”

What did Leao improve most and how is Bennacer doing?

“Leao has grown in the willingness that the team has given. When there is talent and availability you get important results. He is a strong player but he must not be satisfied because he can grow further. Bennacer is back from the AFCONs but he is doing well and is available.”

Can Messias play as an attacking midfielder?

“Messias may be an attacking midfielder but the position in which he feels best is that of right-midfielder or right-winger.”

Do you like the definition – taken from Pulp Fiction – as a problem solver Pioli?

“Yes, I like it, it’s a coach’s job to ensure that things get better and better. Juve are doing well, they’re growing: tomorrow we need a very high technical level of our plays to find the imbalance in the defensive phase of our opponents.”

If Cuadrado were to play high up the pitch, would he change Milan’s way of attacking?

“We have prepared a strategy that includes a certain positioning and will not change from Allegri’s choices.”

What merit do you have in Leao’s growth?

“It’s the player’s merit: improvements come if there is the will, the self-need to reach higher levels. Then we are there and we can’t wait to elevate certain players.”

The game against Juventus is scheduled for 20:45 CET tomorrow and there will be 5K fans at San Siro. Despite this low attendance, it should be a good atmosphere and hopefully, Milan will come away with all three points.

READ MORE: – Leao warns Juve and Inter ahead of Milan clashes: “It comes naturally to me”

Tags AC Milan Juventus Stefano Pioli
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