AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has stressed the importance of putting in ‘a high level performance’ against Atletico Madrid as the team look for their first Champions League group stage win.
Milan make the trip to face the LaLiga champions at the Wanda Metropolitano knowing that only a win can keep their very slim Champions League hopes alive, while Atleti themselves are in need of three points given they are currently in third place in the group with knowledge that Porto face a very difficult visit to face Liverpool at Anfield.
Pioli spoke to SportMediaset on the eve of the game against Diego Simeone’s side, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.
It will be tough, but all is not lost yet: “Yes, beyond the percentages we can have for the passage of the round, a prestigious, important match awaits us against a very strong and very formidable opponent, so we must try to put on a high level performance.”
In recent games, Atletico seem a little less compact: “Yes, strangely yes. But it can happen to all teams to have difficulties and suffer a little more. Usually Atletico are a team that concedes very little, but in the first leg match in numerical parity we created some difficulties for them and our goal is to go and play a match again with this courage to try to be dangerous and try to put in difficulty a solid team, an experienced team, a very strong team.”
Pioli was asked what ingredients will be needed for Milan to secure their first win on Spanish soil for some time, and he named five key qualities.
“It starts from our way of playing, from our desire to question ourselves against a very strong opponent. It is clear that our path involves overcoming obstacles or finding obstacles along our path, but this will help us to grow more and more, analysing our performances and our situations with great clarity. Tomorrow is an important match where we must play with maximum attention, determination, technique, tactics and clarity to have the chance to win.”
There has been some doubt about whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Olivier Giroud will get the nod up front in the 4-2-3-1, and judging by Pioli’s comments we can expect to see the Frenchman after the Swede played 90 minutes against Fiorentina.
“Ibra is fine, but it is clear that we play a lot, there are many important matches and all of them weigh a lot for us and we will see what choices I will make for tomorrow.”
Mike Maignan and Fikayo Tomori will try to make it back in time for Sunday’s home match against Sassuolo while Ante Rebic reported a problem with his flexors and should miss the rest of 2021 and Davide Calabria returned with a muscle problem in his calf in international duty that could keep him out three weeks.
Meanwhile, Rafael Leao is not in the best condition and therefore his starting spot is in doubt. The Portuguese winger did an individual training session this morning before joining the group.
“The number of absentees does not count, the quality of my players and their desire to field a level performance tomorrow night counts. The players who will play tomorrow on the pitch are absolutely top level and we will certainly be a team ready to play the match ball on ball,” he said.