AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has made a full recovery ahead of Thursday’s game agains Shamrock Rovers.
The Rossoneri will make the trip to Tallaght Stadium in the Irish capital looking to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League, but they know it will not be a straightforward encounter despite the gulf in quality on paper.
The home side sit top of their league by eight points having won nine out of their 11 games, so they not only have superior match fitness but they are on a roll in terms of form too.
Pioli will not be able to call upon Ante Rebic (suspended), Rafael Leao, Alessio Romagnoli, Mateo Musacchio and Andrea Conti (injured), meaning it could be a difficult evening in Dublin.
Pioli spoke to the media at Casa Milan in the official pre-match press conference, with his responses transcribed by MilanNews.
You fought so hard to reach Europe, and now here we are. What are your feelings?
“The thrill of starting the new season, of trying to follow the path we built last year. The preliminary is just the beginning, we want to get to the groups but we have to think about tomorrow’s match. Three weeks of preparation are not so many, we did everything we had to do to be ready,” he said.
“In sport, if you take something for granted, you start with the wrong approach, we know the difficulties of the first match, the opponent plays good football, very proactive.
“It is a team that is better physically, we must not only think about the difficulties that we will encounter but of the opportunity that we will have. We have some important absences but those who will leave today are ready to face this difficult match.
“The important thing is to start from our game concepts and our identity, we know how to build and defend, the eleven will depend on the condition. Tonali, Diaz and Tatarusanu already have a clear idea of what we want to do.”
How are the players after such a short break?
“The players needed to disconnect, we preferred to give them a few more days of rest, especially for an environmental issue. We played many warm-up matches.
“I immediately saw they were well mentally, when you are comfortable where you work you are more inclined to sacrifice. In these three weeks we have faced all the training sessions and all the friendlies with the right spirit.”
Europe has a different meaning for AC Milan…
“It has always been the natural habitat of this glorious club. The goal of returning to the Champions League is main, we are ready, aware of the difficulties. Shamrock are good, they are an intense team, we will have to approach the match well and stay focused. for all 95 minutes.”
How is Ibrahimovic? “He has recovered completely, he is very well mentally, he is involved as always, I found him as he is, competitive and available to the maximum.”
And Tonali? “He is a young boy, but mature and ready. He has already shown his characteristics and will, he is very happy to be here.”
What do you think of the market done so far?
“Our transfer market started well in advance, the club wanted to continue what they did last year. These are very important signs, I am very satisfied with the players I have.
“The transfer market is still long, but me and the team we only have to think about tomorrow’s match and the next matches. We hope to have a competitive start, then at the break in October we will also sum up the market.”
Does the market depend on the outcome of the preliminaries?
“With the Europa League it will be a season in one sense and vice versa. We have to go through three preliminary rounds, first we have to think about tomorrow’s game, the first 95 minutes and eventually beyond.
“Let’s expect pace, difficulty, we will have to play with a lot of clarity and a lot of technical quality. This team has important qualities that we will have to put on the field tomorrow.”
Milan scored a lot in the friendlies…
“With our way of playing we must continue to think positively and be very dangerous. It is our way of being on the pitch, we know that there are many situations that we can develop with greater clarity, but the desire to go inside the opposition area and shots must be a constant.”
Donnarumma has not yet renewed but is calm, how do you see it?
“Yesterday I congratulated him for his presence, his availability, for how he faces every single moment at Milanello, with desire and positivity, for me it is absolutely not a surprise. He is mature, he is ready, his growth is constant.”
Can Colombo really be Ibrahimovic’s deputy?
“In Italy we are a bit strange, when we don’t give space to young people we blame the clubs, when we find promising young people we look for other deputies.
“I think I’m complete in the forward positions, tomorrow we will have some problems in the absence of Rebic and Leao. Rebic can be the alternative, Leao can play on the left or as a second striker.”
How do you evaluate the last few weeks in terms of relationship with the management?
“These weeks have allowed us to compare even more to choose the best situation for Milan, this is an important step that can lead to important developments.”
The group is very important…
“A group of guys who feel the responsibility of this shirt, do it with a great sense of belonging, with the happiness of being here every day. It is an important sign. I think our fans will be very happy to see a a team that will give everything it has. The team is very compact and positive, as Zlatan often says: ‘We play with confidence, we play as Milan’.”