AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has urged his side not to look at past results and slip-ups and merely to focus on getting the job done between now and the end of round 38, starting tomorrow.
Milan will be looking to build off what was a hugely impressive result in Naples last Sunday as Olivier Giroud’s goal early in the second half was enough to land a vital 1-0 win over Luciano Spalletti’s side, taking top spot back for the time being.
However, there has been a trend this season whereby the Rossoneri have struggled to follow up big results and performances by taking care of business against sides outside the top seven, and that simply has to change after recent draws to Salernitana and Udinese.
Pioli spoke to the reporters who gathered at Milanello for his pre-match press conference on the eve of the game against Empoli, with his comments relayed by MilanNews and our colleagues at SempreMilan.it, and has been translated below.
A 50,000+ crowd are expected at San Siro, meaning there is now a race to come and see Milan…
“I think the best satisfaction we can have is to see them happy, when we do we are satisfied. Their passion can do us a lot of good and we are happy to find them tomorrow night too.”
On the mood after the Napoli win…
“Satisfied with the performance yes, but it is not the last step: the last step will be the next. We must remain attached to the present and to everyday life. I saw a concentrated team that prepared very well.”
On struggles against the lower-ranking sides…
“We must not become obsessed with our past, but think that every game is different from the others. We must play with continuity, quality and rhythm to bring out our characteristics.”
On the battle with Inter now that they are out of the Champions League…
“The week was characterised by our work and not by the other matches. It will be a close fight. We must concentrate on the next one and give our best.”
What do you expect from these last 10 games?
“Difficult to make predictions, it has been a peculiar season: no one was able to stretch a lead. I still think that the top five are very strong teams that could make a streak of consecutive victories, the Italian league is very difficult.”
Are Juventus a scary proposition?
“I’m afraid of Empoli tomorrow. We saw the first leg match, they created difficulties for us and we need to play well.”
Is it important to win, no matter how it comes?
“Yes, but I believe that playing well helps you to win. All titles are fought and won with dirty games, games must be suffered and fought. We will have to be humble and believe in our qualities.”
Is it a psychological burden to be top?
“I see a determined team, convinced and with the necessary serenity to face this season finale. We will be able to face the matches with the right concentration and determination.”
On the physical work done…
“When we had the period where we played a lot, we spent the week just recovering energy, now we also spend the week working well towards the games. For some there will be less work, others more, we will have to be good at managing individual situations.”
On the importance of tomorrow…
“There was no need for my intervention to make the players understand how important the challenge of tomorrow is. The experience of the past has been useful, but it is useless to keep looking at the past.”
What do you like most about Giroud?
“I like everything about Olivier, how he plays for the team, he knows how to work under pressure, he knows how to come and play to feet, he knows how to attack in behind and I especially like the person who is, very determined and serene, a person with whom it is a pleasure to work.”
On a possible move to 4-3-3…
“It was not the first time we did it, we prepare every game to have advantages and these are situations that I can carry out because I am fortunate to have very available players and it helps me to prepare the matches.”
“Zlatan gives everything and a lot to the team in everything he does, for his charisma, for his quality, for the intelligent player who is on the pitch: he knows when to be in the area and when not to be. He is a little better, he will give us great support.”
Could Tonali catch his breath tomorrow?
“Tonali is fine as well as Kessie, Bennacer and Diaz. We play with 11, you know how important it is to have different characteristics on the bench. I am very confident because we have the right players to start the game and to have solutions for the game in progress.”
What choice will you make between Romagnoli and Kalulu?
“Technique, I try to field the best line-up. Who I think is the best of the two I will line up from the start. Alessio is fine after the injury, we will see who starts tomorrow.”
On Theo’s replacement tomorrow…
“I really liked Florenzi with Sampdoria, at the moment I would prefer Calabria on the right and Florenzi on the left. We’ll see tomorrow.”
“Empoli are a very technical and dynamic team, it’s not easy to play against a midfield that has two at the top [a 4-3-2-1]. Our team knows the importance of the game and is focused.”
“They are an unpredictable team, who love the insertions of the midfielders. The quality of the individuals is there. They started with the aim of avoided relegation, they are very close and we must congratulate Andreazzoli for the work done.”
On the identity trait of your work at Milan…
“The enthusiasm that this environment has given me and the enthusiasm I have in approaching my players: we must be a team that needs emotion, we need to feel something inside.”
What do you expect from Empoli, proactive or compact?
“I think they played an excellent match against us in the first round. Then the path can change, I don’t know what choices they will make: let’s expect both.”
“He is one of those players like Giroud, Kjaer, Zlatan who have won. They have personality, character and who are examples for the group.”