AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has admitted that Simon Kjaer’s injury does not look good and a signing in January might be needed to cover his absence.
Milan put defeats against Fiorentina and Sassuolo behind them with a 3-0 win over Genoa on Wednesday night as a Junior Messias brace followed a Zlatan Ibrahimovic free-kick, with the gap to Napoli in first back to a point after they slipped up.
However, there is little time to enjoy the victory as Milan are already back in action again on Saturday afternoon, with the Rossoneri hosting the bottom-placed side Salernitana who have struggled to score goals and keep them out in their return to the top flight.
Pioli spoke to the media who gathered at Milanello for his pre-match press conference, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews.
Are there any pros and cons of playing so many games in quick succession?
“We got used to these close encounters, we have our timing. Times are always short, but we studied our opponents well, to recover energy and prepare well for this match.”
Any update on Kjaer’s injury?
“We lived it with great despair, we know the qualities of the player and the depth of the person. His presence in the team is very important for his charisma, personality and being able to say things at the right time. We are very close to Simon, we are worried for him, but also aware that everything will be fine and that he will overcome these difficulties because he is a strong person.”
How is Leao’s growth continuing?
“The path is right, he wants to improve. He must have greater presence and malice in the penalty area, he must play with conviction and strength. He must attack the goal more.”
Could Pellegri play as a starter?
“Pellegri is available and he’s fine, as is Ibra. We’ll see who will start from the beginning.”
Have you already talked to the club about the January market?
“If Kjaer’s stop is long, we may need a new signing. But we don’t want to take just to take, but only to improve the team.”
Is there a risk of thinking about Liverpool?
“Absolutely not. We will think about Liverpool from tomorrow evening. There are 20 days left until the Christmas break, we have four important matches. It will be difficult, Juventus beat Salernitana with difficulty. None of us are thinking about the Champions League. We have to go back to winning with continuity to stay at the top of the standings.”
What kind of team are Milan?
“There are teams that can wait, while there are teams like ours that have to go at a thousand miles per hour. We like the way we play, but we always need to go fast. To win games we have to go fast, that is to steal the ball quickly from the opponents and raise the pace of the game.
“They are all the starters. The choices are made by me, but also by the players with their performances and their condition. Everyone must feel like owners.”
What memory do you have of Salerno?
“I have good memories, it was my first experience as a first team manager. I felt good, it’s a good environment.”
Why do you think there are all these injuries? Do you play too much?
“It is difficult to organise a different calendar, but it is evident that we play too much. We come back at night from an away match and then we play after two days. There is a lot of talk about rotation, for me the players are all starters, but it’s normal every so much to let someone catch their breath. It is difficult to find a solution but that we play so much it is there for all to see. Every team has some injuries.”
Is the month of December the most delicate since you’ve been at Milan?
“I went through the most difficult months, especially at the beginning. Then if you coach at Milan all the months are difficult, but it’s right because we raised the level and that’s what we wanted. But then who would have thought we could lose to Fiorentina and Sassuolo, with all due respect for them. All matches are difficult.”
How do you rate Kalulu’s season?
“His growth is evident, he always takes the field with personality. He has to improve a lot, he arrived last year without ever having played in the first team. He has to improve above all how to position himself, for a defender it is decisive. He can play more roles, this is positive.”
Saelemakers and Messias play the right wing role differently…
“They have different characteristics. They both like to play between the lines. They must also be good in the defensive phase to have greater balance.”
How’s Brahim Diaz doing?
“When a player is well he plays better. He has to find more precision and quality. He has the qualities to make the through ball, he has to be very dangerous. That’s where we can afford to make mistakes.”
Any update on the injured players?
“We have recovered Bennacer, he trained today and will therefore be called up. Calabria, Giroud and Rebic are better. Castillejo is the one ahead and will rejoin the group in the next few days.”
Could Messias play as a striker?
“I think he and Diaz would be a good attacking couple: they wouldn’t give each other points of reference and they know how to attack depth. It could be a solution.”
What kind of a game will it be tomorrow?
“We will have to manage the ball quickly, they will play very tightly and if you move the ball slowly you will never find the right spaces.”