AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes that his team have prepared well for Saturday’s derby against Inter at San Siro.
There are a number of different external factors that make this quite a peculiar derby compared to the usual, including a host of COVID-positive players and the fact the game will be played with around 80,000 fans less than a normal fixture between these two sides.
Milan will be without Leo Duarte and Matteo Gabbia who are both COVID-positive while Ante Rebic and Mateo Musacchio are both injured.
Inter will be without a number of players in midfield and defender as Radja Nainggolan, Milan Skriniar, Roberto Gagliardini, Alessandro Bastoni, Andrei Radu and Ashley Young have tested positive for Coronavirus, and there are rumours Alexis Sanchez will also miss the game.
Pioli spoke to reporters who gathered in the Milanello press room ahead of tomorrow’s game at San Siro, with their questions and his answers transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
On the game, he began: “Milan have their own identity and their own way of playing on the pitch. In our work the exams never end. It is a difficult test, the important thing is to have prepared well, with little time available for both teams. We feel prepared.”
On the lack of fans: “We will feel it. Unfortunately there will be the absence of the fans, but it is a heartfelt match and we know it.”
Ancelotti spoke well of Milan, do you feel the praise towards your team?
“I thank Carlo for the kind words he sent towards us. Ours is a path that began a year ago. It is an initial path, we have ample room for improvement. We must have great respect for Inter, they are predicted by everyone as the probable winner of the league.”
Were you hoping to get to the derby like this?
“I was hoping to get to the derby with three league wins and reach the groups of the Europa League. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. We arrive well, as well as Inter.”
What step would it represent to beat Inter?
“It would give us a lot of enthusiasm and confidence in our qualities and characteristics. We have to think about growing, improving and trying to be ambitious. All the matches serve to consolidate positive situations.
“It is a match that sees us face a strong opponent, which will allow us to understand where we can grow. In the defeat of the last derby we learned a lot. We understood that we can play for it, but that it is enough to give up our intention for a moment to suffer some serious slaps. On that defeat we built our path. ”
How is Ibrahimovic and were you afraid of not having him in the derby?
“He has been as he has always been with us, smiling, positive, strong-willed, generous, determined and inspiring. He is fine, he has had only one week of training, but he is ready to play.”
Do you think it was appropriate to send players for international duty?
“Clubs and players have made themselves available. We are on par with our opponents, they too have had the same problems as us.”
When will Rebic be back?
“I think he will not be available for tomorrow and next week we will understand when he can return. It was a delicate injury.
“We are talking about a player who has been decisive in many games. He is an important player, but I certainly have many at my disposal.”
How did you prepare for the match?
“We worked a lot on ourselves, without neglecting the preparation of the match according to the opponent. Inter are very strong, but like everyone else they also have weaknesses.”
Do you agree with Donnarumma, who says that Milan have reduced the gap with Inter?
“I always agree with my players, we have to prove it on the pitch.”
What game are you expecting?
“We have to be clear-headed tomorrow night. It remains our way of playing intense football and not being cautious. It’s the same attitude that they have. On paper it should be a spectacular match.”
Did you expect Kjaer to make such an important contribution?
“Honestly, I hoped so, but the contribution that Simon is giving on and off the pitch is of a high level. We are talking about an inconceivable professional and an intelligent guy. The return of the captain allows us to find those defensive mechanisms on which we have worked. We still have some difficulties in that department.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much has Milan grown compared to the previous derby?
“We have certainly grown, for the work done, for the mutual knowledge and for the results obtained. It is useless, however, to think about the past. Now we certainly have a more precise identity and we have been playing with this game system for longer. We face a team that was built to try to win in Italy and also in Europe.”
What makes you different and what do you envy about Conte?
“Envy is a feeling that doesn’t belong to me and I don’t envy anyone or anything. The differences between me and Conte are difficult to say. I know my colleagues, but I don’t know them personally and I don’t know how they approach their players. It is difficult to make judgments.”