Pioli discusses ‘confidence’ ahead of Roma game, relationship with Leao and midfield choices

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has insisted that his team will go to Rome with confidence after a positive recent period ahead of what is a huge game in the capital.

Given where we are in the season and with the two teams currently tied on points in the standings, Milan’s trip to face Roma tomorrow at the Stadio Olimpico can accurately be described as the proverbial ‘six-pointer’.

The Rossoneri will likely be in the mood for revenge after what happened in the reverse fixture back in January, when the Giallorossi scored twice in the dying minutes to steal a 2-2 draw.

Not only was it two dropped points, but it proved to be the start of a winless run for Milan that ended any Scudetto hopes and made a top four spot something that the team would still be fortunate to grab.

Pioli spoke to the reporters who gathered in the media room at Milanello for his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to the capital, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

In certain matches, Milan have never made a mistake. Is it like a Champions League game?

“It’s worth a lot, there are less and less games remaining. We have three head-to-head clashes, the more points we will score and the more chance we will have to finish in the top four which is our big target.”

How is Giroud?

“He’s fine, needed some rest, but now he’s fine and ready to play.”

Did you rewatch the reverse game?

“We know their characteristics. But let’s not think too much about the first match, we have to be careful in those situations where Roma are strong, like set pieces.”

Does this team have something more in the decisive moments?

“We’re fine, there’s the will to have a great season finale. Everything will be decided in these last few matches, this season finale must still see us as protagonists. Then the matches have to be played and won, but let’s think about one match at a time otherwise we lose energy.”

How is Leao doing?

“In a season a player can’t always be at 100%. Now he’s fine physically and mentally, positive performances give you courage and enthusiasm. We expect a lot from him.”

Roma are a team which protests a lot…

“Roma is strong, Mourinho is doing well. Everyone behaves and does what they are and what they believe in. We only think about winning games.”

How is Ibrahimovic doing?

“Ibra is better but there isn’t a diagnosis yet. He won’t be there tomorrow, as well as Pobega and Florenzi who has a fever.”

How are you managing the midfield?

“There’s no need to stimulate them, everyone knows the importance of this period. Having more players is good.”

Do you have any regrets?

“There are moments in a season when things don’t go well, but it all helped us to be here today to play for significant goals. We’re only thinking about tomorrow and bringing home points.”

Are you afraid about recovering your energy?

“Matches are very expensive, especially mentally. But we are now used to playing so much and at such high levels. I have professionals who know how to recover energy, so I hope we will have this treatment.”

What feelings do you have for this season finale?

“They’re good because the team is doing well and is working well. The recent performances have been good. We know what to do in the important matches, so we’re going to Rome with confidence, we have the qualities to do well.”

How do you choose the attacking midfielder?

“It depends on how we want to finalise the game. Having versatile players is important, I know that Bennacer and Krunic can move around without problems.”

When could Pobega come back? How is his growth going?

“He’s still in pain but it’s decreasing. He hasn’t returned to work on the field yet, he should do it next week. He’s doing well, he’s growing well. When he arrived he was more of a midfielder who ran in behind. He can become a complete midfielder.”

What is your relationship with Leao like?

“For me, all my players are like my children. I talk to them a lot and listen to them because they are still 20-year-old boys. Leao is the player who has been in my office the most over the years and therefore there is a strong relationship.”

Will tomorrow be decisive?

“Tomorrow’s match is a head-to-head match. It will be important for the championship, but I am convinced that the Champions League race will remain open until the last day.”

What are the traits you gave to your Milan? Where have you influenced the most?

“My team must go onto the pitch with clear ideas and a strong spirit.”

Are you aiming for second place?

“It’s useless to think about the final standings. We have to think about one game at a time, then we’ll draw the conclusions.”

Will Bennacer always play as attacking midfielder?

“His position depends on the attitude of the opponents. He’s a complete midfielder, then it will be up to my players to figure out how to be more dangerous.”

How will you mark Roma on set pieces?

“We’ll use a mixed defence. We saw the mistakes in the first leg, but it’s not just our fault or mistake that can decide these situations. Roma scored against everyone from set pieces.”

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