Pioli hints at rotation ahead vs. Celtic: “I will field players who are mentally and physically ready”

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has hinted that he could make changes ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League opener against Celtic.

Milan will be looking to continue their perfect start to the 2020-21 season when they face the trip to Scotland to face Celtic on Thursday night.

The Rossoneri have gone 20 games unbeaten in all competitions since football resumed after lockdown including 16 wins, and have won seven out of seven across all competitions to begin the current campaign.

Pioli will not be able to call upon either Ante Rebic or Hakan Calhanoglu for Thursday’s game. The former is still recovering from a dislocated elbow while the latter sprained his ankle in training on Tuesday.

In addition, Leo Duarte will not feature as he has just returned from Coronavirus, while Matteo Gabbia is still testing positive and Mateo Musacchio is still recovering from surgery.

Pioli spoke to Sky Italia on the eve of the game against Celtic, with the questions and his answers transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.

How’s Calhanoglu doing?

“He had this ankle injury. He was a little better today. It will not be the race and we will have to analyze the situation day after day.”

AC Milan returns to Europe – does it feel like the club are returning to their natural home?

“It is clear that Europe is part of the club’s history. It is normal to play in Europe for Milan. Now we want to stay there for a long time, until the end after having faced long and tiring preliminaries.”

What Milan will we see tomorrow? With many or few changes?

“The derby took away a lot of energy, both mental and physical. As always, in this period, we will have the three-week block with many close and competitive matches.

“I will field players who are mentally and physically ready, because the opponent will want to start strong in turn in their debut in the Europa League group, as well as having characteristics of physical intensity.”

A few days ago you talked about the formation. Are you thinking about the three-man midfield?

“I consider myself a flexible coach and I think it is important to put the right players in the right place. We have found a balance with this game system, but this does not mean that we are closed to other situations.”

Getting to the final of the Europa League or qualifying for the Champions League – which are you going for?

“We are Milan and we have to do well everywhere. We are thinking of winning every game, even if it will not be easy or possible, but we are not in a position to focus on just one target.

“There is a cohesive, strong and willing group. We are satisfied with the victory, but let’s think about tomorrow night’s race.”

How is Ibrahimovic?

“The team is doing well, because it’s the head that commands the legs. Zlatan is fine, as are his teammates. And I will decide on the team tomorrow morning.”

Tags AC Milan Hakan Calhanoglu Stefano Pioli