Pioli ready to face ‘determined’ Celtic as he reveals what he learned about Milan while away

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has revealed that he is excited to get back to training and working with the squad after receiving the COVID all-clear.

As confirmed by the club’s official website, Pioli and his assistant Murelli both returned negative results after tests conducted yesterday, meaning the duo will take training today and will also coach the team as usual for Milan’s Europa League fixture against Celtic on Thursday night.

Milan managed to keep up their excellent form in Pioli’s absence, winning 3-1 at Napoli before earning a 1-1 draw in Lille and beating Fiorentina 2-0 at San Siro on Sunday to extend the lead atop the Serie A table to five points.

Pioli spoke to reporters at Milanello on Wednesday afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s game against Celtic, with the questions and his responses transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.

Are you excited to return to Milanello?

“Yes, I missed the work so much. It was 18 long days. Last night when they communicated the negativity to me I had a hard time falling asleep, because I couldn’t wait to see them again,” he said.

“I have to say thank you to the club, because they quickly improved all the technologies to be able to work remotely, thanks to all the fans who supported me and supported me in this particular moment, a huge thank you to the team because it made me proud and thanks to who replaced me.

“I was lucky because I had some symptoms, but I had Covid lightly. This does not mean that we don’t have to keep our guard up, with spacing and masks. We can only lower it when there is a cure.”

Are AC Milan starting to understand how to manage matches, like a great team?

“I think it is correct. We always want to try to play games. We must not stop trying to lead, but we must also know how to manage when it is time to know how to suffer and stay compact.

“It is an important growth. We must continue to be always dangerous, trying to do it for the whole game, because we have the possibility.”

How did the post Milan-Fiorentina video call come about? And do you feel happy about the compliments of Capello?

“Clearly, staying at home, we did everything necessary to stay close to the team in all daily moments. We always have video calls at the end of the game, with staff and players. It seemed appropriate to me to maintain this relationship.

“I can say that ‘smartworking’ does not work, because I worked a lot more from home than from the field, but seeing the players live is another thing.

“As for Capello’s compliments, they can only please me, it’s always gratifying. I know very well that in our world we must always question ourselves. We will try to do things in the best possible way.”

What do you think of the situation at Celtic, with supporters complaining about the coach Neil Lennon?

“I have esteem and respect for my colleague. I know he is doing a good job. It happens in our environment that we don’t have results, but Celtic have always performed well.

“We expect a determined opponent, we must be a very serious team tomorrow. We haven’t achieved qualification yet. Tomorrow’s match will have to be played very well, because Celtic can create difficulties for us.”

How do you think Celtic will be affected by the dispute?

“Unfortunately these situations are part of our environment. I think that when they happen the teams find even more determination and therefore I’m sure we will find a determined team. We will have to be very prepared.”

How much has Milan grown in personality despite being without its coach and without Ibrahimovic?

“Surely the team is more aware of their qualities and possibilities. The results and performances have given conviction to the team. We know we still have ample room for improvement and we must continue to work to be able to grow.”

What are the things you didn’t like about watching Milan from home?

“Watching the games on television, watching the game from above as a visual. I understand a little more who is in front of the TV and who criticises easily.

“From the TV you have a harder time enduring some mistakes. At home I found myself a bit more nervous. The team performed well, with some difficulties, as is normal in the match.”

Will it be essential to carry out a substantial rotation until the Christmas break?

“We have started a period of one month in which we will play 10 times. Playing as a team we can feel less fatigue and recover well. I have always made changes from one game to another. I think it is essential to keep the level of performance high.

“Now we have to grit our teeth, because tomorrow night’s game is very important, because it can bring us closer to one of the objectives we have in mind, which is to overcome the groups of the Europa League.”

How is the team doing and how are Bennacer and Castillejo?

“The training went very well. Both are available for the match, they are doing well.”

Is there a chance for Leao and Ibrahimovic to play on Sunday against Sampdoria?

“Leao and Ibra are moving forward day by day. Maybe Sunday is a bit early, but let’s evaluate well, there are still a few days left.”

Do you not experience anxiety when there are absences in the attacking department and if there is an opportunity in the January market, can you intervene?

“I say that life is already complicated and difficult, do not get anxious that there is no need. When you are dealing with multiple problems in a single department it is normal to go into difficulty, in any department.

“We have the skills to to be able to make up for the shortcomings, we have recovered Castillejo and Saelemaekers. It is clear that the absence of players in the same department has taken away something from us in terms of rotations, above all.

“There are also Colombo and Maldini, who I am sure will be able to be ready when we need them of them. I hope to have all the squad available to be able to make the best choices.”

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