AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has insisted that his team have grown a lot in the last three months but can still improve in key areas.
Milan will face off against the Sardinian side looking to build from their win in the first game of the season, when a solitary goal from Brahim Diaz inside the opening ten minutes plus a resilient defensive effort secured a 1-0 victory over Sampdoria at the Marassi.
They face a Cagliari side who appeared to be in a perilous position in their opening game of the season when they were 2-0 down after an hour against Spezia, but they pulled it back to rescue a 2-2 draw.
Pioli spoke to the journalists who gathered at the Milanello press conference room to answer their questions ahead of tomorrow night’s game, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
There is the transfer market and the Champions League group stage draw, but tomorrow is an important match…
“Absolutely yes, we worked during the week. We aim to start this season well, on Monday we managed it with a painful but well-deserved victory. Tomorrow there will be a team difficult but we know our possibilities.”
What stimulates you? Does Ronaldo’s departure change hierarchies?
“The desire of my players to work stimulates me a lot. Each game will make us grow and each game gives me ideas on where to work. We prepare the games in a certain way but then they must be interpreted. Keeping our ideas is very important. As for Ronaldo it was an unexpected departure but the hierarchies do not change, it will be a tight fight until the end.”
How has your Milan changed in the last three months?
“We have all grown in awareness, the important thing is that the team has clear ideas on the pitch and that it does not allow itself to be influenced by the difficulties we will encounter. Overcoming Cagliari will not be easy, the important thing is to have an idea and carry it forward. with continuity and quality.”
Is there the impression that now the approach of the opposing teams is different than in the past?
“We must always have this enthusiasm and we always have it during training. We have to be fluid, we have to excite ourselves and be able to excite our fans. Surely we have grown, and if last year we could have been the surprise now. we can no longer surprise anyone. But we can grow.”
Are you afraid of losing Kessie?
“Right now my focus is only on tomorrow’s match, as far as renewals are concerned, there are still important days to go. The evaluations at the end, but we are very attentive to the newspapers. The evaluations at the end of the market.”
How is Pellegri? How important is the warmth of the fans?
“Pellegri showed up in good condition but not yet in optimal conditions, he will not be called up for tomorrow. He is quite well, he will need the break and I hope that in two weeks he will be completely inside the team’s work.
“We felt the fans also last year, albeit far away. It was great to see them last Monday, it was great to say hello to the Curva this morning and it will be great to see them again tomorrow at the stadium. It will be essential to be able to maintain this compactness.”
What can Milan still improve in?
“In the summer we played competitive friendlies, the team tried to keep the game under control. We have to try to be more dangerous, we don’t always manage to turn chances into clear scoring chances, we have to improve in the last third of the pitch.”
On the differences in the home vs. away performances from the last season…
“The away results were extraordinary, it will be difficult to repeat them. We need to improve the home performance, we want to try to do it tomorrow”.
You have not had any reinforcement from the transfer market for the trequartista role…
“I think our improvement will have to come from reading situations better. We have to manage the ball well and find numerical superiority. It is a discourse that goes beyond the individual player, it is a reading of team that we must have in the last quarter of the pitch.
“We have quality players who can make the play, I am not so convinced that Cagliari will play the same game as last year. We will have to be good at being effective, fast and precise when we find the right opening. It is growth that must come through the correct reading of the various situations on the pitch.”
On Bakayoko and the pressure of the team with fans there…
“He is not yet a Milan player, I can’t say anything. We are no longer young as a team. We will only have positive effects from the fans at the stadium, we want to take all the energy possible to make the best possible performance.”
Do you expect more goals from the men behind the striker? How are Ibra and Kessie?
“For the goals we have to create many important goal situations, then the more unpredictable we are, the more difficult it will be to take countermeasures. Zlatan and Franck are improving, I expect that next week they will be able to start working with the group again and then, after the break, face the important games that await us.”
On Maignan’s distribution…
“It depends on what our opponents do. Of course having a goalkeeper with this football ability also gives us another opportunity. We prefer to dribble from behind but we adapt to the opponents, Mike is working well.”
“I believe that this year we need a lot of starters, at the end of the transfer market I will have a lot of starters available. We have to raise the level in everything. Krunic is a Milan player, very intelligent, he knows how to occupy the areas well and participates in both phases. I will make choices match by match, the boys will have to be good at being ready.”
On Brahim Diaz…
“I found him more ready as is normal, as it was for many players who came from other leagues. They are all more ready, they know how to recognise situations differently, we are more of a team. We want to play and improve, we must maintain this enthusiasm that allows us to go beyond our qualities.”
“What I said for Brahim also applies to Sandro. Wanting Milan at all costs means being proud to defend the colors we wear every day, we feel this pleasure and this responsibility, we want to take these colours as high as possible.
“It is important that he wanted to stay with us, he has everything to be a complete player, an all-rounder. His growth has been constant and there have also been difficult passages as is normal. Now he is more ready, more lucid and who takes on more responsibility. He’s a complete midfielder.”
On the controversy over the national break…
“The calendar was clear from the beginning of the season, Milan has always been attentive to all protocols. These are situations within the competence of the health and corporate area.”
“His condition has improved, he is ready to play from the start, then we will see what choices I make. We must expect important performances, he has everything: defensive phase and construction. Player of great quality”.
Are Milan ready to go head to head with the top clubs in Europe?
“We have to be ready for tomorrow, then we really wanted the Champions League with great strength. We know it is the most important competition in Europe, we will do everything to be competitive in a difficult group.”
What are you expecting from Cagliari?
“Certainly in previous matches they did not wait for their opponents, I think it is also quite normal to have these situations at the beginning of the season where there is no pressure from the standings. We don’t know what their attitude will be, we will have to be good at interpreting the positions. The maturity of a strong team lies in reading situations well.”
Are Pioli’s Milan like Mancini’s Italy?
“It is a good comparison, we hope to be able to obtain the same results. This is certainly our mentality in enthusiasm. Milan’s historical past must not be a burden but a stimulus, we will play to give our best and try to win.”