Pioli discusses De Ketelaere’s difficulties, Leao’s role and priority of season objectives

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has admitted that Charles De Ketelaere struggled in training before the World Cup break, and confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not start tomorrow.

Milan welcome Salernitana to San Siro tomorrow night hoping to take advantage of Inter’s defeat against Spezia on Friday night and Lazio’s 0-0 draw yesterday to strengthen their position in the race for a finish inside the top four.

Buoyed by a midweek draw away against Spurs which booked a place in the Champions League quarter-finals, the Rossoneri host a Salernitana side who stayed up through a miracle last season and this time around look like they will avoid relegation much more comfortably.

Pioli spoke to the reporters who gathered at Milanello for his pre-match press conference, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

Is there an awareness in the team of having to avenge the defeat against Fiorentina?

“We have to throw ourselves back into the league season with great determination. If we want to relive certain emotions we’re experiencing in the Champions League, we have to finish in the top four. I saw what I wanted to see this week, we’re focused.”

How’s the team doing?

“The team are doing well physically, mentally, tactically. There are many things we can do better. On Wednesday we took an important step for our growth. We worked hard when there were many processes outside, we were united and tried to understand what wasn’t working. The season that will come from tomorrow onwards will be decisive.”

What will Milan be?

“The best Milan in the most absolute way, it’s an important match. What we did yesterday doesn’t count anymore, what we do tomorrow counts.”

Will Ibra start tomorrow? 

“Not tomorrow, soon yes. It depends on many things. He’s improving, he’s been training more continuously in the last few weeks. Tomorrow he won’t start from the beginning but he’ll be there to help us.”

What observations have you made on Leao?

“Above all in serving him better we can improve, he made 4-5 deep movements that if we had served him he would almost certainly have found himself in front of the goalkeeper. Everyone can do even more.”

Where can you improve? How is De Ketelaere?

“In terms of game choices. In the first half against Tottenham we could have dribbled much better, there are many game choices that we can improve. De Ketelaere is fine as are many players in that role. We’ll see tomorrow.”

On Daniel Maldini and Vranckx…

“Honestly, I didn’t see Spezia-Inter, then I saw Daniel’s goal. I won’t comment. We’re only thinking about winning in the league, the defeat in Florence didn’t allow us to find continuity. As for the Vranckx’s future is still early to determine.”

How has the season been so far?

“Compared to last season, we’re doing better in Europe and less well in the league. Being able to put Milan in the Champions League for three years in a row is our goal. From now on, every match will be heavy and important, we have to push starting tomorrow evening.”

Did Leao hide a bit against Tottenham? 

“Rafa moved very well. We found few spaces in the first half, we didn’t serve him with the right timing. I keep telling you that Rafa is the player with the most freedom in his movements, he has to look for spaces and solutions. Salernitana are a compact team, we have to be good at understanding where to find the solutions.”

On Calabria and Florenzi…

“Saelemaekers played fifth in Belgium, he has the same characteristics as Messias. In this system of play, Calabria can play third and fifth, with other characteristics. Florenzi can play fifth”.

Will the club aim more for the Champions League or the top four places?

“We’re talking about a cup and before the quarter-finals we have one month and four league games. We’re not thinking about it, especially for what I’ve seen in my players these days. The Italian league he has coaches who prepare how to oppose the opponent in the most careful way, there will be difficulties.

“The goal of finishing in the top four is not secondary to anything, it is a priority. We just have to think about scoring many points and playing well. We have to move from this nice passage of the round so much positivity to put on the field tomorrow.”

On Brahim Diaz…

“He’s a complete player, with his characteristics. A player of great quality, inspiration, hard work, sacrifice. I work very well with Brahim, he’s doing very well. We’re only in March, then we’ll see.”

More on De Ketelaere…

“He had a moment before the break that wasn’t particularly brilliant even in training. He’s doing well physically and mentally, he’s growing. He’s ready to give his contribution.”

On Sousa’s Salernitana…

“They occupy positions similar to that of Tottenham, we have to be careful to control the game well against a team that defends very well and can counter very quickly.”

With getting through the last 16, will Milan become scary again in Europe? 

“I don’t know, you have to ask the others. When the draw comes there will be eight high-level teams. I don’t think anyone will be happy to face us.”

On difficulties against the small and medium-sized teams…

“We have to play in a very precise and intense way, with the mental attitude of those we know how to put on the pitch.”

Tags AC Milan Stefano Pioli


  1. I hope we can continue to improve. Especially in the attacking department. We need cdk and others to step up, to give us any chance in the Quaters.
    I do think most of the big clubs will be happy to draw us in quaters

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