Pioli previews ‘open’ clash against Atalanta and confirms Maignan ‘will play’

By Isak Möller -

On the eve of the clash between AC Milan and Atalanta, Stefano Pioli spoke to the media at his usual press conference. After three consecutive wins, the Rossoneri are aiming to make it four. 

Milan have bounced back from their tough start to 2023 and Pioli is hoping that this will continue. After switching to a three-man backline, the Rossoneri have looked like a completely different side as they have regained some stability.

Speaking at the press conference, as transcribed by MilanNews, Pioli shared his thoughts on the recent success and tomorrow’s game against Atalanta.

Tomorrow a match for the ones who score first?

“Atalanta certainly has all the characteristics of a great team: they have an organisation of the game, technique, physicality. It will be an open match, two teams who want to get a goal more than the opponents.”

On the comebacks and the injured players…

“Ibra is getting better and better, he spent almost a full week with us. Calabria and Bennacer are not called up but I will have them in the team on Wednesday. Florenzi is better but won’t be called up, he should be back for the next match. Mike is fine, he will play tomorrow.”

On Tatarusanu…

“I have to say that Tata has fully done his duty. He struggled at the start because he hadn’t played for a long time, but then he found his rhythm and made a good contribution. Among other things, he played despite having the flu these days. Mike was like a caged lion, he couldn’t take the field, he couldn’t help the team. He’s very motivated and will give us a great contribution.”

What game will it be?

“It’s a very important match because the standings for the Champions League are packed. I expect a hard-fought match, Atalanta are a team of duels, tackles, and counterattacks. We are good mentally and physically, we want to play our game to the fullest, we want to try to control the game better, being careful in the defensive phase.”

Does Leao like this formation?

“I think it would be wrong for a coach to use a new formation if one of the team’s most important players isn’t happy or doesn’t suit it. Leao is very happy to play in that position there and anyway, Leao has always been the only one who has ample freedom at Milan. He has a way of feeling the game of his own. He doesn’t always do what I tell him but often does what his intuition tells him.”

Could Ibra be seen again on the field tomorrow?

“He could, the first time I called him [against Torino] was to get him back with the group, he knows how much he has worked and suffered to be available again. Now he’s available, he’s ready to play.”

Is this the ideal time for the leaders to return?

“The more leadersany team has at its disposal, the more strong and convinced it feels. The mental aspect and the personality aspect are important.”

Among the 799 games as a manager, which one do you remember with more pleasure?

“I found out last night as I reached a good finish line. 800 games are not few but I don’t want to stop here. I want to reach 1000 games as a Milan coach, I know it won’t be easy but that’s the goal. I continue to believe that all the experiences I’ve had have made me grow. Then of course, when you play a game in which you win a Scudetto in a team like Milan, that remains as a point of reference. I hope that there will be more in my future.”

On Bennacer…

“It was communicated that he had a small muscle injury. The injuries vary from 4 to 5 weeks. We tried to recover him for Tottenham. He’s fine but he’s doing high intensity these days and there’s no need to risk it. He will be in the squad from next week.”

On De Ketelaere…

“I’ve talked a lot with Charles in these months since he arrived, he’s a young boy who is entering a completely different work environment system. Never as in the last few weeks have I seen him so convinced, mentally well, physically well. It took him longer than I and he wanted but he’s fine.”

Do you need a special marking for Hojlund?

“He’s a player we’ve already seen, when we prepared for the match against Salzburg in the Champions League he was still playing for Sturm Graz, he played an incredible game. It’s a centre forward that is different from the last ones we’ve faced, especially Kane and Petagna are players who attack the defenders, Hojlund instead goes deep: attention will be needed.”

With the return of Calabria, can we go back to 4 at the back?

“Yes, yes, we can. Based on the characteristics of the players, we can face opponents in different ways. Anything is possible. It’s not the game system that makes us win, but the principles and the quality we put into the games.”

De Ketelaere as a right-winger?

“On the centre-right where Brahim plays yes, but also centre-left. At Brugge, he was very versatile and his chances for goals are increasing, it will arrive: the first goal he scores will be lucky, I imagine it like this.”

The game against Atalanta is scheduled for 20:45 CET and it should be a great atmosphere at San Siro. The fans have been incredible as of late and another push is needed as tomorrow’s game is very important.

Tags AC Milan Atalanta Mike Maignan Stefano Pioli
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