AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes the derby against Inter tomorrow will be decided on who comes out on top in the key incidents and the duels across the pitch.
The club’s official website have provided some eye-opening numbers ahead of what will be the 232nd instalment of the Derby della Madonnina, with over 75,000 fans expected at the stadium on Saturday evening and over 150 nationalities present.
Of course there is never an insignificant game between Milan and Inter but this one carries plenty of added meaning given that the two clubs have competed for the Scudetto in each of the last two seasons and the Rossoneri won the last league meeting 2-1 in what turned out to be a huge momentum shift.
Pioli spoke to the reporters who gathered at Milanello for his pre-match press conference, with his comments relayed by MilanNews and translated below.
The market has just ended. Now it’s up to you to integrate the new arrivals…
“Ours is a shared path, we want to invest in young prospects. It was also important to confirm an important block of players who still have ample room for improvement.”
What type of Milan will we see tomorrow?
“The matches are all different. It will be different from the one against Sassuolo. We will continue our game principles. We will need great quality.”
Are Inter stronger than last year?
“It will be a balanced season with many teams playing for the final victory. Tomorrow there will be two teams on the field who know each other well. The derby is always the derby, I expect a match with great duels. Whoever wins more will have more chance of winning the match.”
How do you approach this match?
“It doesn’t matter how you get to certain matches, but how you play. We are well prepared.”
Who is favourite tomorrow?
“I see a balanced game and the incidents can make a difference. We should have the clarity to come out as favourites from the key moments. We must have our identity, carrying it forward during the match beyond what happens; we are working on it: we have the our ideas and our way of playing.”
How important is Leao for Milan?
“To win these matches you need to make the right choices at the right time. There is not only Leao who is certainly important for us, but there are many situations in which you can be dangerous.”
How have you found the change of ownership?
“I know they will be present tomorrow, I know that maybe they will meet the team. I met Cardinale, he has a lot of enthusiasm; Elliott has brought Milan back to the top and the new ownership has the same ambitions. We are in good hands.”
How do you approach having such a large squad?
“We are a bit long in some departments, but it’s a busy season and so that’s okay. Everyone knows they will have to fight to play the games. Everyone is in our cause, so it will be good to have a few more players.”
What role can Dest play?
“We are all sorry for Florenzi. They are trying to understand the recovery times. Dest has quality and speed. We took him to play as a full-back, but he can also be useful in other areas of the pitch.”
Is Ibrahimovic missing?
“Zlatan is with us. Then we have all the right motivations.”
What can you tell us about the Champions League squad list?
“We are evaluating it, there is time until tonight: there will be painful choices, because everyone wants to play the Champions League.”
Do you expect better choices in the final third tomorrow?
“Of course. Against Sassuolo we forced some plays too much, we made too many long passes. Sometimes we made a mistake technically, other times we made a wrong move. Tomorrow we need to do better.”
Was there too much difference between the starters and the second string in the Sassuolo game?
“I am sure I am coaching a very strong and very competitive group. We prepare every match as if it were the last and most important one; it is never the performance of the individual that makes me change my mind. We were too frenetic in Reggio Emilia. I will prepare every single game as usual because I am convinced that I have a strong team.”
How is Origi?
“He is better, he will start from the bench but it is an important return for us.”
Is De Ketelaere the right person to go at Brozovic?
“Charles is a strong player. When we have the ball we have to look for him. When we are not in possession we know we have to be compact and aggressive. Tomorrow we will have to have a great game in both phases. We will have to move well, without the ball tomorrow the compactness and the desire to sacrifice will be fundamental.”
How will Inter change without Lukaku?
“Last year we played against Inter Milan without Lukaku. They will prepare themselves with great attention as we did. It is a derby, an important direct match. Two teams who want to win will face each other, it will be a battle. Tomorrow also a match. centimeter can make a difference.”
How much will Perisic be missed by Inter?
“Teams don’t change from one player. Perisic allowed him to get inside, but they have Dimarco and Gosens and they will field other characteristics.”
Have you ever been afraid of losing Leao?
“The rumours are spread by you and then ask me if I was afraid (smiles). I was never afraid of losing him either because of the boy’s attitudes or because of what the club told me.”
Are you afraid of Inter’s counters?
“They counter very quickly. It will be important to stay compact and have the right coverage. Obviously, to be dangerous we will have to risk something, but we have the qualities to do it.”
What can you tell us about Vranckx?
“He combines quality and quantity, he is a complete midfielder. He is an interesting guy. The club continues to focus on young talents and he falls into this category.”
How have you seen Giroud these days?
“He is charged as we all are. We all feel the derby a lot. Olivier is important to us, both from a technical and personality point of view. What he did last year in the return derby will give him even more energy.”
In the last derbies, Inter have always taken the lead…
“They didn’t always take the lead because they put us in trouble right away, but for the first situations in our half. They can be dangerous at any moment. We respect Inter so much, but we also have physicality, legs, quality, strength and we want to play.”
Are you preparing anything on a tactical level? Not just for tomorrow…
“I waited for the transfer market to end. I still think that we shouldn’t play official matches with the transfer market still in progress. The arrival of some players is leading me to think about some possible tactical novelties.”
Why will Milan play well tomorrow?
“Because we are strong and Milan want certain challenges to prove it.”
Inter are very strong on dead balls…
“Yes and my choices will also go in this direction. We will have a team that will have inches.”
Was there too much frenzy in Reggio Emilia?
“We are doing well on the pitch and we want to break everything. But we must have the right clarity to play, the frenzy is never a good adviser.”