AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli once again refused to be drawn on his future at the club, while he praised the recent impact of Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Milan will travel to the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday night looking to make it six wins in all competitions since the turn of the calendar year, having lost just one game in 2020.
The Rossoneri put an end to their three-game winless run in all competitions on Monday night by beating Torino 1-0 at San Siro in Serie A, and this weekend they will face a Viola side who have struggled massively after a positive start to the season.
The head coach has an injury crisis of sorts to deal with, as Simon Kjaer, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Rade Krunic and perhaps even Hakan Calhanoglu are all set to miss the game, as per the latest reports.
Pioli addressed the media before the trip to Florence and began by discussing the injury situation. His words were transcribed by MilanNews.
“Those not called up are are Duarte, Biglia, Kjaer and Krunic. The others are doing well. We need to improve our ranking even more, 14 games is a lot, but we are in a hurry to improve,” he said.
“Tomorrow I also expect attention and confidence, Fiorentina will make us work a lot. We have to win as many games as possible, then we’ll see where we will get.
“Roma and Atalanta are ahead, behind us we have strong teams like Napoli. The goal is to reach the highest place we can. We must continue like this, we have shown that we can play on par with the big teams in this league.
“There is no perfection in football but you always have to play to get closer to perfection. We think about tomorrow, we have to make more points than the first half of the season. It’s time to push.
“I always ask the players to leave the field exhausted after giving everything. We must prove that we are worthy to wear this shirt.
“The secret of everything must be passion, it helps you make things better. We have to give our best every day. We have to think about working well, eating well and resting well.”
There were reports that Musacchio refused to play on Monday night against Torino, but Pioli put those to bed.
“No case, he had a hardening in the calf. In the Italian Cup he had to play, but then he felt a discomfort in a calf muscle and therefore I played Kjaer. If he had refused to enter, he would not have been called up for tomorrow.”
The 54-year-old was also asked about rumours of a possible rift at Milan between directors Zvonomir Boban and Paolo Maldini and CEO Ivan Gazidis.
“The team is training well, there is a good atmosphere here. We can determine things on the field, we cannot waste energy on other things. Our priority is to think about the present.
“Ibrahimovic effect? Having an example of such determination and ambition as Ibra can do us good. If Ibra has become a champion and a unique player, it is because he is always hungry and wants to improve himself.
“We have a relationship of great respect and esteem, there is mutual trust. This is fundamental. I have an excellent relationship with Ibra and with everyone else.”
One player who has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes is Ante Rebic, who has half of Milan’s 10 Serie A goals in 2020 so far. Pioli worked with him during his time in Florence, but insists he can do even more now he is with the Diavolo.
“In viola I worked little with him. He has to go on like this, he has to give even more.”
Rumours are rife regarding a possible coaching change at the end of the season, and the Milan boss was once again asked about the speculation and the supportive words of Paolo Maldini.
“That your work is considered positive is a pleasure. No coach can be confirmed regardless of the results. We have to think about doing every Sunday.
“I don’t follow all the rumours and I can’t talk about the future every time. I think only in the present, we must do our best and then we will see what will happen.”
On his return to Fiorentina, where he managed from 2017 to 2019, he added: “It will be nice, but I think it’s normal for what I went through there.
“After Davide’s tragedy, we all experienced a particular situation, always trying to remember Astori’s example. Beyond the tattoo I have, Davide is always inside me. I am convinced that he is happy that I am here at Milan. It is a situation that I never wanted to live, but now I am better.
“At Fiorentina the new owner has changed several things. Now there is more conviction and courage. The atmosphere will also be different after the last Viola victory.”
On Saturday the men’s team will face Fiorentina and on Sunday the women’s team will do the same in a huge battle for second spot.
“I make the wolf in the mouth to the girls and to Ganz. For us it will be a difficult game, it will take great determination. The viola comes from a great victory, it is well trained. But we also come from a positive moment and we must continue like this,” Pioli added.