Pioli discusses Europa League aims, Milan’s inconsistencies and what to expect from Slavia

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli addressed the notion that his side have been like a pendulum in terms of their swings in performance level, while revealing his belief that they can go all the way in the Europa League.

Milan welcome Czech powerhouses Slavia Praha to San Siro tomorrow night for the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie, and while there were tougher potential opponents in the draw it will still be a tricky two legs.

The Rossoneri overcame Stade Rennais 5-3 on aggregate in the play-off round and they did most of the work in the first leg at home which they won 3-0, so a similar scoreline tomorrow would certainly be welcome.

The good news is that Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu are fully back in the fold, meaning that Tommaso Pobega is expected to be the only absentee for the game.

Pioli spoke alongside Yacine Adli to the reporters who gathered in the conference room at Milanello for his pre-match presser on the eve of the game against Slavia, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

The feeling that the team gave after the win in Roma was that they immersed themselves a lot in work and did so silently…

“We came out of the match well. I think we didn’t play the best match from a technical point of view, but certainly a match with attitude and [the right] mentality. The team is well, they know that a decisive moment of the season is coming. I think we are ready to face it.”

If you win the Europa League will you remain at Milan? Do you think Arab funds could arrive at Milan? What effect can this operation have on your transfer market and your future? 

“You managed to ask two questions that I can’t answer (laughs). It’s better that way.”

How much is the idea in your head of getting to the final of the competition?

“We have to think we can win it, then we have to be good at getting through this round. It’s not the right mentality to look too far ahead, in Europe the opponents are all difficult. We’re facing an opponent who has only lost once in the group.

“We’ll have to take good advantage the home factor tomorrow. But we have to think about one round at a time. We’re fine and we have to take advantage of this moment. Inside us we have the awareness and enthusiasm to think we can get to the end.”

PSG have made it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Does it increase feelings of regret or increase awareness?

“Unfortunately, the Champions League is no longer part of our present, and it is no longer part of our present due to details that escaped us in the decisive matches. Now we only have to think about tomorrow and going as far as possible in Europe.”

Why this swing between performances? 

“I don’t think that’s the case in the last period. The last match we made a mistake and clearly lost was the one in Monza. In the last 2-3 months the team has always played at a certain level and the performances have been of a certain level.”

What one quality could get you to the end?

“The quality of my players. They have shown that in Europe they have made gigantic steps forward compared to four years ago. We have grown. We have the ability to go all the way but we have to prove it.”

How nice is it to be spoiled for choice in defence?

“It’s good for all of us to be able to make choices, we play 4 games in 10 days. I will try to exploit the full potential of the team.”

Winning the Europa League or the season is thrown away: how do you rate this perception?

“The judgments must be made at the end of the season. Each of us and you will make their own judgments.”

Leao has four goals in the league and three in European competitions. Have you given yourself an explanation for this attitude of his?

“Rafa has the qualities to be a decisive player in all matches, how many times he didn’t score goals, how many times he created them. He has always been a thorn in the side of opponents and always a reference for us. He must continue to believe in himself and think he can be decisive in every match.”

Is this the key period for those who have played less?

“It can be considered a key period, yes, it can be considered that we all have to demonstrate that we are of a high level. It is not a given to be competitive both in Serie A and in Europe.

“I know I coach a strong group, I am proud to coach a group of guys who give everything every day and when they have the chance to do so they will try to do it in the best possible way.”

Adli respected your choices for some time…

“I try to be clear, direct and correct with my players, knowing that I then have to make the decisions. I try to be close to them in everything and for everyone, but I always put the good of the team and my ideas first.”

Can the Milan crest have any weight? 

“The crest doesn’t take the field, we have to make our strength, the atmosphere our qualities count.”

What kind of a team are Slavia?

“A very intense team, which run a lot and well; they are very direct, they play with the three attackers close together, they play a lot through them, physical and fast.

“The quality of the squad is a good quality and their coach is very good because he changes in every match 5-6 players keeping the level high. They are an opponent to face with a lot of respect.”


Tags AC Milan Milan Slavia Praha Stefano Pioli

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