AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has admitted that his side have a problem with set pieces, and confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic should make the squad.
There is no underplaying the magnitude of Sunday’s game at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona given that both teams have 57 points and are in a battle for the title along with Inter, who won 5-0 on Friday night against Salernitana to set the tone.
Milan are looking to avenge the 1-0 defeat they suffered to Luciano Spalletti’s side at San Siro earlier in the season in what was a controversial game as a late equaliser from Franck Kessie was inexplicably called off for an offside on an immobile Olivier Giroud.
Pioli spoke to the reporters at Milanello who gathered for his pre-match press conference on the eve of the trip south, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
Tomorrow there will be a great atmosphere at the Maradona stadium…
“There is everything in this game, even the atmosphere. The show and the atmosphere will be beautiful: it will be stimulating for Napoli and also for us.”
How is Ibrahimovic?
“Ibra is better, he trained with us both yesterday and today and will probably be available tomorrow.”
Are Milan where you would like them to be?
“Two weeks I would have told you something more, at the beginning of the season I would have said yes. We have made a path and now there are 11 games left. We must be satisfied, but from now on all the games will be crossroads and will have to be faced with a lot clarity and conviction. Napoli are in great condition, they have great quality but we have it too. We have to play with great strength.”
Could the derby draw have a negative impact?
“No, the derby gave us energy rather than taking it away. We are ready for this match.”
What if it was a draw?
“If we enter with the thought of being satisfied [with a draw], you are closer to a negative result than anything else…”
You have never beaten Spalletti…
“Napoli have the best defence in the league. They know how to dribble and find space. Both teams have strong attacking departments, so I think whoever defends better will win.”
In the mini-league of the top seven, Milan are leading the way…
“It is a sign of our competitiveness and our strength, you must give us this confidence for tomorrow evening.”
Will the two points dropped against Salernitana weigh heavily?
“From now until May 22, 33 points are missing. It will be a continuous swing. Nobody will want to drop points and we must stay on top to fight until the end for the top formations.”
How’s Rebic doing?
“He is doing well and is returning to the best condition. You have to start the matches with the best possible formation, but it is also important to have the right changes. You have to stay inside the matches: many have to be decided in the final with additions that resolve the matches.”
What do you expect from the Tomori-Osimhen battle?
“Matches will be more and more like this with duels. I have no doubt about the qualities of Fik, both in defense and in setting. He will find a strong opponent, it will be a fascinating duel.”
Milan don’t cross much and when they do they don’t do it well…
“Our build-up, our willingness to fill the positions between the lines affects the end. We are not intending to go to the byline to cross, but when you get there you need to have more quality in crosses. Many times we prefer to play inside rather than outside. but I also think it would be better to start from the outside and then go inside.”
Is there a problem with set pieces?
“We are not taking them very well, we are working on them more than before.”
Which kind of a game will Napoli play?
“Luciano is at the conference at 3pm, you have to ask him. We must be able to read all the situations, knowing how to get out of the pressure when this is strong or understand when they will wait for us to dribble well and play in their own half.”
Bennacer came back improved from the African Cup of Nations…
“He is playing at these levels continuously, I expect this from him. The disappointment for his national team has been strong, but Isma has a great character and will do everything he can to continue playing to improve.”
Would you like to coach Fabian Ruiz?
“I really like my players. In the last Napoli clashes there have been difficult and balanced clashes. Each team will show their own characteristics.”
Napoli attack well down the wings…
“Not only on the flanks, but also centrally with Osimhen. We will have to understand when to be aggressive or when not to be aggressive; we need to be compact with the defenders who must be good at not getting caught behind.”
Against Salernitana and Udinese, Milan hesitated after going in front. Why?
“It was a mistake. We have to have continuity of play for 95 minutes to be able to win the game.”
Napoli could play with the high defence…
“I almost hope that Napoli will play with the high defence.”