AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has stressed that he is ‘indebted’ to fans of the club and he admitted that he feels the impact of having such a poor derby record.
In terms of low points under Pioli, there are few that come close to the feeling of the 5-1 demolition at the hands of Inter in the derby on Saturday evening as the Nerazzurri made it five derby wins in a row.
That result thrust so many of the certainties and optimistic signs from the first three games of the season into serious doubt and reignited the doubts about the defensive department and the balance of the midfield.
There is the need for an immediate response, starting on Tuesday evening when the Rossoneri take on Newcastle United in the first game of the Champions League group stages.
Pioli spoke to the reporters who gathered at Milanello after this morning’s training session on the eve of the game against Newcastle and he was alongside Fikayo Tomori, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
Tomorrow is a new game in a different competition, have Milan switched away from the derby loss?
“We have to do it. We had a lot of expectations about our derby, a lot of positivity. It was a strong disappointment, but we have the Champions League. Luckily, because it was the only way to change our minds. The group is tough and we know how important it would be to start the group well.”
How pleased were you with Ibrahimovic’s presence today?
“Zlatan was supposed to come before the derby, but he had a commitment and came today. We know how much Ibra cares about us and how important he has been for our journey.
“His presence is always positive. It pleased me, the management, to his team-mates. We’ll also see each other out for dinner. We’re ‘friends’, I’m no longer his coach.”
Is this your most difficult moment since being at Milan?
“I have had good moments, but also difficult ones. I feel the weight of the failures in the derby and if I could, I would change these results. I know that I coach a strong team and I know that we will have the ability to react to such a difficult derby.
“I am in debt, because last year when we played really badly they always supported us. And I am in debt because I am the coach who lost the most derbies in a year but we will do everything to make this season positive.”
What will it be like to find Tonali again as an opponent?
“It will be exciting, I will hug him with great affection. It will be very emotional for him to return to San Siro and we wish him the best, but from the match after the one against us.”
Has the time that must be given to new players been underestimated?
“I think we suffered it more who experienced the previous derbies than the new ones. They faced the match with more serenity, which does not mean lack of concentration. After the 3-1 the match became more difficult. It was a Milan who haven’t expressed everything they can give.”
What did Ibra say to the team or to you?
“Today is the day of preparation for an important match. I think he spoke individually. Then he spoke with me about many things, especially the new players and then our things.”
At the beginning of each season the goal is to improve on the previous season. The Champions League starts tomorrow: what does it mean to improve this season?
“It would mean getting to the final. In reality it means concentrating step by step. Tough, balanced group. PSG are the favourite, but Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle are strong and we can take points away from each other.
“But the experience we’ve had can be useful to us and tomorrow’s match can already be useful for the standings.”
What kind of team are Newcastle and will there be any changes?
“They are the classic English team with a lot of intensity and physicality. They have several players over 1.90m, but also with quality players. Fik is back in the line-up otherwise he wouldn’t be here.”
Do you want to revisit the post-derby statements?
“I have a clearly insufficient report card in derbies. You have no idea how much it weighs on me. If I could go to every fan to make them understand how much it weighs on me I would do it, but in relationships it’s not the words that count, but the facts and attitudes.”
Is Reijnders indispensable for this team?
“Tiijani is a strong player, but not indispensable. If he were indispensable, it would make us predictable.”
How do you relate to the team?
“I’m always very attentive to the behaviour of my players. I know very well if the team assimilates the things I propose well and I’m fine when the opposite occurs.
“As long as this is the case, I continue, according to our game concepts; then the positions can change. Maybe tomorrow we will have the same concepts, but different positions.”