Pioli previews Hellas Verona-Milan: “We must prove we are better than Inter”

By Euan Burns -

The day before AC Milan’s crucial clash with Hellas Verona at the Stadio Bentegodi, Stefano Pioli addressed the media at his press conference. He knows that his team must prove that they are better than title rivals Inter.

The Nerazzurri went back to the top of the table on Friday night as they came from behind to beat Empoli 4-2 at San Siro. Milan are now one point behind but will go top with a win or a draw in Verona.

Speaking to the media before the game (via Milan News), Stefano Pioli discussed his team’s preparations for the game in the context of the title race.

What kind of week has it been?

“It’s been very similar to the previous ones. We’ve arrived, before Lazio, at a time where all the games are important. I saw great attention and motivation from the players.

“We face a great opponent who will create difficulties for us but these challenges can allow us to gain awareness. We don’t have to prove that we’re just good, but that we’re better.”

The Stadio Bentegodi has always been key in Milan’s history. Will it be the same tomorrow?

“It will be nice for our players to play another game with so many Milan fans. They are transferring energy and enthusiasm to us that we want to put on the pitch again tomorrow night.”

How important will attitude be tomorrow?

“Our attitude must be the same throughout the 90 minutes. We and Verona are among the teams that score the most in the first few minutes but the game will be long and we will have to try, as always, to change characteristics in the course of the game. Only by believing until the end will we be able to do well.

Milan need to be more incisive in front of goal, what can Ibrahimovic give?

“The plan is always the same, we have a way of playing that makes us a balanced team. We want to dominate the game, to be more dangerous, but the games are long and difficult and the match between Real Madrid and City shows this where Los Blancos won with spirit and mentality. Zlatan’s presence is important and decisive for us and he is helping a lot.”

Do Milan and Inter have two different mentalities?

“It’s not the time. Now we need seven points to do something extraordinary and to show that we are the best in this league. We have to play as Milan, then if we win 1-0 or with a few more goals the important thing is to be a team and play with emotion.”

Milan will play two days after Inter. Will the league have to take a more serious look at that?

“I don’t care. We know what we have to do, we are missing these points to reach our goal and we know what we have to do.”

What aspects can worry Milan? Verona are in great form

“Verona are right to do everything to try and beat us. We are a prestigious rival and we will also try to do everything to win. Verona’s attackers are very dangerous, they have quality players and we will have to know how to defend well and put our opponents in trouble.”

Is this the most difficult game of the three remaining?

“Yes but only because it is next, I’ll repeat the same concept for the next one. All the teams want to do well to improve their score and we will have to face all the games with a lot of attention.”

Do the team feel ready for these three games? A comment on Ancelotti?

“I see them always on the ball and motivated, they are handling the emotions well. They are young guys but they come from two years of work, of success and disappointment.

“We have already faced these challenges in the past and tomorrow’s will be just as difficult. We have prepared well.

“Ancelotti is a legend and I think he’s a top coach, capable of winning five championships. He knows how to get into the players’ heads and hearts.”

Do Milan struggle when they really need to win?

“I don’t see my players as agitated or anxious. I see them looking motivated and we must be concentrated because anything can make a difference.

“In this sense I can see the great growth of the group, I thought I had to be here to calm them down every day but I see them serene and happy. We must continue on this path that has allowed us to climb and climb.”

The last penalty awarded to Milan was against Spezia. Who would be the penalty taker tomorrow?

“We have always set out our penalty taker list but on the pitch the players can change that. There are those who have to be ready to take it.”

In the face of some refereeing errors, do you get the impression that not everything depends on how Milan perform?

“No, everything that we can control depends on Milan. Our attitudes, our qualities. Then there are those who have to make other choices and we will respect them.”

What do you think of Barak?

“He has both technique and physicality. The more we limit him, the better we can defend.”

Milan have let their opponents off the hook a little. Will it be a case of managing games better?

“We will continue out of habit and mentality to look for goals. Even with three pure strikers there was no lack of balance against Fiorentina, we let one goal in because we defended badly. We will always try to have an attacking spirit”.

Are there any differences and similarities between the Lazio and Verona fixtures?

“None, because it was easy for the team to understand what kind of week we had to have. The matches are equally important, we prepared well.”

Someone wrote: “Milan in the lead: the best of the worst” Did that headline bother you?

“I read it and I didn’t like it, but it doesn’t matter. There’s someone who still criticises Ancelotti, so anything goes.”

Will you alternate Leao and Rebic on the flanks?

“It depends on the game, both can do well on the right or the left”.

Saelemaekers or Messias from the start?

“I don’t think there is much difference between the two defensively and offensively. The feet change, but they are two offensive players who then have to work defensively as well.”

Last year at Verona, a magnificent performance when it was needed.

“From a tactical point of view it will be similar: we’re expecting a lot of suffocating and man-marking. Freeing up space will be decisive.”

The match kicks off at 20:45 CEST on Sunday evening and Milan know that three points will go a very long way to securing the Serie A title.

Tags AC Milan Ante Rebic Carlo Ancelotti Hellas Verona Rafael Leao Stefano Pioli Zlatan Ibrahimovic


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