Pioli on Atalanta clash, injury updates and De Ketelaere: “I remember your faces…”

By Isak Möller -

On the eve of the clash between AC Milan and Atalanta, Stefano Pioli spoke to the media at the usual press conference. He shared his thoughts on the clash, taking on a Bergamo side in great form, as well as the outcome of the Europa League draw. 

Milan advanced to the Round of 16 of the Europa League, winning 5-3 on aggregate against Stade Rennes but losing the second leg 3-2. As such, the Rossoneri will be looking to bounce back with a strong performance and a win against Atalanta tomorrow.

Speaking at the usual press conference, as transcribed by MilanNews, Pioli shared his thoughts on facing an Atalanta side in ‘good form’. He was also asked about the defensive issues, as well as the struggles of the deputies when given the chance.

Tomorrow it will be a direct clash. What do you expect?

“It’s an important match for the league table, to get back to winning ways. It will be difficult, we, Atalanta and Inter are the teams that have claimed the most points lately. We will face a team in good form.”

You said that Atalanta were more favourites than you to win the Europa League…

“When you asked me the question, we still had to get through. Now we are on par with Atalanta, Liverpool and Bayer. Everyone wants to win the Europa League.”

How is the team?

“I don’t know anything yet. Yesterday we recovered energy, today I will understand more about the condition of the team. Kalulu is well, we will talk to him and we will see whether to call him up. Tomori is a little further behind but he is fine too. Calabria should also train with the group today.”

How can you stop the bleeding at the back?

“The difference isn’t being compact or not, it’s the intensity with which we apply pressure to best develop the defensive phase.”

What did you think when you got Slavia Prague and not Bayer Leverkusen?

“I didn’t think anything. I wasn’t even worried about facing Bayer straight away. It won’t be easy because Slavia won the group ahead of Roma and are playing for the league title.”

Does playing on Thursday change the approach at the weekend?

“It makes a difference, just look at the preparation for tomorrow. If you play on Thursday and Sunday, you rest on Friday and you only have one training session today. We want to be competitive in the league and in Europe. We want to do well, it will be an important month for us.”

Did you expect more from those who played in Monza?

“It’s better not to talk about criticism. I don’t want to be negative. Let’s think about tomorrow.”

Was De Ketelaere helped by less pressure at Atalanta?

“Gasperini is doing an incredible, exceptional job, we must congratulate him. I remember the looks on your faces when we said that De Ketelaere has quality and that Maldini and Massara had made a good signing. Many new arrivals need a year in Italy first. Gasperini is very good at giving you a more offensive position, then every environment has its expectations and its history.”

The defensive phase will be put to the test against Atalanta and Lazio…

“Atalanta is not only strong on the counter-attacks, they also other solutions. We will have to be compact, attentive and aggressive. We will have to try to hurt Atalanta because we have the characteristics to do so.”

With the selection against Monza, are you focusing more on the Europa League?

“It’s not like that. I keep repeating that we want to be competitive in both competitions. I don’t have just eleven starters, I believe that the choices in Monza were the right ones for that match and for the conditions of the players. I will always choose based on the condition of the players and the game we want to play.”

How come you never play on Mondays?

“It was proposed to play on Monday against Monza. We preferred to have an extra day for the return match against Rennes. They proposed that we play on Monday against Empoli, but we didn’t it would be 3 pm on Sunday…”

Is Maignan less serene?

“His miracles are not over. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He always learns something from every situation.”

What is the difference in performance between Pulisic and Chukwueze?

“They have the same characteristics. Pulisic scores goals, assists and works. Chukwueze must score goals, assists and work.”

Bennacer starting tomorrow?

“There’s still training today. I will see how all the players are doing.”

With the ingredients you have available, what can you do to improve some aspects of the team?

“The club put the right ingredients in my hands to have a balanced and competitive team. In Monza, we conceded two avoidable goals. Even with 10 men, at 2-2, we wanted to win the match because this is the team’s mentality.”

Gabbia is in great shape. Is Kjaer’s presence helping him?

“Kjaer is a leader, he knows how to speak at the right time. Speaking on the pitch is very important. His presence is certainly helping Gabbia. Matteo is doing excellent things with and without Simon. He applies himself and wants to be in the right place at the right time. He is doing very well.”

Milan better at home than away…

“Our numbers say that we are better at home, and since we are at home tomorrow, we can be confident!”

How to face Atalanta…

“We have to be strong in duels. Guardiola said it well: facing Atalanta is like going to the dentist, it’s annoying.”

Milan are currently seven points ahead of Atalanta but the Bergamo side have a game in hand, meaning a defeat tomorrow would put third place at serious risk. Bologna also won their game last night, now just four point behind the Rossoneri.

Tags AC Milan Atalanta Stefano Pioli

1 Comment

  1. “I remember the looks on your faces when we said that De Ketelaere has quality and that Maldini and Massara had made a good signing.”

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