AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss at least the next two games and could be out for the season.
Milan will certainly be feeling a lot better about their chances of a top four finish after Sunday’s 3-0 demolition of Juventus in Turin, a victory that not only moved them back into the Champions League places but ensured that the Rossoneri now have the edge on head-to-head over both Juve and Napoli which could be crucial if points are tied come the end of the season.
Nonetheless, tomorrow another huge game beckons as Milan will again take the field in Turin this time to face the Granata, who could do with a few more points to make sure of safety. Pioli spoke at the Milanello conference room on the eve of the match against Torino, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
Sunday’s victory brought great adrenaline, but tomorrow there is another important match…
“One of our qualities is balance. We celebrated on Sunday evening, but since yesterday morning we have been thinking only of Turin. Tomorrow is a very important match, we need to score more points to reach our goal,” he said.
How is Ibrahimovic?
“It was the only discordant note on Sunday. He suffered a slight sprain, he will certainly not be there against Torino and Cagliari.”
Will Brahim Diaz play again?
“He has certain characteristics, to play between the lines he and Calha are the most suitable ones. But tomorrow will be a completely different game than on Sunday.”
Is Donnarumma now closer to staying at Milan?
“Gigio is a professional, he is focused only on the last three games. On May 24th the sums will be drawn, until then no one will talk about the future. We are all focused on tomorrow’s match.”
What was the impact of Ibra and Gigio?
“You win and lose as a team. If then the qualities of the individuals increase their value, obviously the depth of the team also increases. There is a group that has worked a lot this season, that’s the only thing that counts.”
Rebic made a big impact when he came on…
“The right reaction is what Ante had on Sunday. He is a Milan starter, he knows it well, but then I prepare the game based on what I think is best for the team. Anyone wants to play and therefore it is right that who he doesn’t play he is p***ed off. I have always told my players that they must always help the team and have a great spirit of sacrifice. Rebic was not happy, but he entered very well. I make the choices based on the game we want to play.”
Could Kjaer rest tomorrow?
“Sunday’s choices were very focused on our defensive phase. I didn’t like the defensive phase against Benevento. Today I will evaluate the team, yesterday it seemed to me that everyone recovered well. I will evaluate what to do between today and tomorrow morning.”
What match will it be tomorrow?
“I’m not afraid of euphoria, but I’m always worried before matches. I don’t know if Torino will wait for us or pick us off later, we have to play our game, we have to continue on Sunday night’s performance. The same spirit will be needed, we are in the decisive moment of the season.”
How does Milan change without Ibra?
“The goal is to show our qualities and exploit them. Rebic has other characteristics than Ibra for example. On Sunday we were good at attacking the depth, we have a good player between the lines. The opponents cannot close all the spaces, we we have to be ready and careful to take advantage of the spaces. A mature team makes the right choices at the right moments and we did it on Sunday.”
Is there a different spirit in the dressing room?
“The victory on Sunday gave us great satisfaction. We won clearly against a strong opponent, these victories give you great confidence, but we know we have not done anything yet. There are three games left, it is time to continue to have this attitude. In every match there are difficulties, being a team wants to be good at overcoming them together.”
Can Pioli improve further as a coach in this respect?
“I try to improve every day. I have great passion inside, I don’t look at what I have done in the past. I want to continue growing, my growth process is not finished. Obviously past experiences have helped me, but I still have great desire to grow.”
What do you think when you hear or read ‘#PioliOut’?
“I’ve never heard of it here at Milanello, there is a great atmosphere. I’m positive and I will be as long as we work in this way.”
What leads you to make certain choices like Diaz and not Rebic?
“We need to work well, we need to know our opponents and our qualities. I quote Mandela: ‘When I am afraid of taking risks, I will no longer be able to be a leader’.”
What game will you play tomorrow?
“Tomorrow we will have to be good at occupying the pitch well and taking advantage of the spaces. We will have to be good at making the right choices.”
Could the wrong penalty have been the key moment of the victory? The team reacted very well…
“Yes, as was Diaz’s goal. The team’s reaction after the penalty was positive, he proved to be strong. It was an excellent response.”
Could Dalot play instead of the suspended Saelemaekers on the right?
“Yes it can be a possibility. He is more of a full-back, but it can be a possibility.”