Pioli discusses Milan’s condition, replacing Loftus-Cheek and his five-year journey

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes his side are reaching the business end of the season in great shape, but revealed Malick Thiaw has picked up a problem.

Milan will be looking to continue their excellent recent form having won every game they played in the month of March, racking up a streak of six victories in a row across all competitions.

The most recent win was last Saturday against Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Rafael Leao getting on the scoresheet at a ground where the Rossoneri have had struggles.

Lecce arrive at San Siro tomorrow relatively fresh from a change of manager, and Luca Gotti has four points from his first two games including a rather impressive 0-0 draw against free-scoring Roma in the last round.

Pioli spoke at Milanello in his pre-match press conference on the eve of the game, and his comments were transcribed by MilanNews, which we have translated below.

Is there a desire to keep the positive moment going?

“The desire is there. We arrive at the important period of the season in good mental and physical shape. We had won four in a row in the league before, but never a fifth. Lecce have not conceded a goal since change of coach and put Roma in difficulty, a good game will be needed.”

How do you judge your five-year journey at Milan?

“I have changed, the positive and negative experiences have taught me something. One of the skills of a coach must be to always take something useful for growing and improving. I always try to take something home with me, in these important years at Milan I did it.”

How much will Milan change tomorrow given the upcoming European commitment?

“The focus is only on tomorrow’s match. If there are changes they will be due to situations I saw during the week, to some players who had some problems during the week, or to Loftus’ disqualification, but not because we are thinking about Roma.

“We will have time to recover energy for Thursday, now it is too important to give continuity to our game and our results. I will field the lineup that I deem best for tomorrow.”

How is Thiaw? Could he return by Thursday?

“The fact that he won’t be available tomorrow also depends a lot on next Thursday’s match, he has this inflammation from plantar fasciitis which is causing him some problems, he wasn’t able to complete all the training sessions with us, so on a precautionary level he won’t be called up tomorrow but with the great hope that he will be available for Thursday given the absence of Kalulu and Tomori.”

Florenzi said that Leao’s characteristics could be a mix between Mbappé and Leao. Do you agree?

“Florenzi is always like this, he always aims very high. I talk a lot with Rafa, even yesterday. We arrive at our most important moment of the season with Leao in excellent shape, mentally, technically, tactically and physically. I’m very happy with him, he must continue and grow further in some situations.”

On an athletic level, can we say that Milan have reached the decisive phase of the season as you would have liked them to?

“Yes, we managed to work with many individual players continuously. The fact of not having stops allows you to have a good condition. I’m more and more convinced that the physical condition depends a lot on the mental aspect.

“We are fine but what we have up to today matters very little in our work, we just have to think about putting in the best performance tomorrow. The end of the season will determine many situations.”

Could Milan think of building an Italian core? And any news on Camarda’s renewal?

“I can’t tell you, I don’t answer this type of question. You are rightly doing your job and have been talking about the future for a long time. We talk about the present because it is with the performances and results of the present that we build the future of Milan.”

Can Bennacer play in place of Loftus-Cheek?

“Yes, he can play in place of Loftus. He had a bit of flu, he missed some training this week. He can play there, another of his team-mates could also play there.”

What can you tell us about Jovic?

“He is a quality player who was ready. I believe he can do even more.”

Is there a big gap between Serie A and Premier League?

“The Premier is a very intense and technical league, certainly of a very high level. I honestly don’t think that Serie A is far from the level of the Premier League despite the investments that clubs can afford being lower than those in England.”

How will you replace Loftus-Cheek? Could we see Leao, Pulisic and Chukwueze together from the start?

“In the past I thought about the condition of my players, the characteristics of the players and how to field a balanced team that can put the opponents in difficulty. It is a solution that we are evaluating.”



Tags AC Milan Milan Lecce Stefano Pioli


  1. Looks like the pairing will be Gabbia – Tomori with possibly Kjaer coming in the final 25 min or so.

    Hope it’s nothing serious and nothing happens to Kjaer as well. We need both for Thursday. With Tomori disqualified against Roma, we’d probably have to call Simic as well for the bench

    1. Simic cant play against roma as he has been at the club for less than 2 years and hasnt been called up to the europa league squad.

      1. Keep forgetting that they included Kalulu (who was injured at the time) instead of Simic ffs. It was a dumb decision at the time and looks even dumber now

        1. You can always look back in hindsight but i would argue that kalulu is a more versatile player who can cover more postions from cb. rb and lb so on paper it still makes sense from my point of view and he probably will be back for next round if we manages to progress.

          1. It’s nothing against Kalulu. Including a player who is injured (and may have further complications – as happened) and was not due back until at least March seemed very reckless, especially given we were missing other defenders also.
            A fit Simic is more use than an injured Kalulu. Many people were very surprised with that decision at the time, not just now

          2. Well kalulu had been back playing again and was then injured again and that is unfortunate but i do think it did make perfectly sense also considering our draw but unfortunately it didnt pan out as well as hoped.
            Well im sure a lot of people was surprised but on the other hand a lot of people also wants us to field a bunch of 16-17 years olds instead of starters so i often take peoples opinions fairly lightly.
            Would it at present be good to have him as an option, sure but I still think from a depth, technical and tactical perspective it did actually make sense adding the frenchman instead,

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