Sassuolo head coach Alessio Dionisi has acknowledged that his side are the underdogs heading into their game against AC Milan on Saturday, but believes they can spring another surprise.
After securing a top-half finish in 2020-21, Sassuolo dropped off slightly in their last two campaigns, finishing 11th in 2021-22 and 13th last season. This season has been more of a struggle again as they sit in 15th place in the Serie A table, with just four wins.
Sassuolo still have quite a few players out too, with Uros Racic, Daniel Boloca, Gregoire Defrel, Matias Vina and Mattia Viti all expected to sit out the game, and there is a doubt regarding Domenico Berardi – their top scorer with nine goals – because he has been suffering from an illness.
Dionisi spoke to reporters from the press room of the Mapei Football Center on the eve of their trip to the San Siro to preview the game, with his comments relayed by TMW.
How did you experience this week and where can Sassuolo start again from?
“From the performance in the second half, even if we didn’t bring anything home, but if we have to take the positive things, the performance of the last 30 minutes was positive…
“But we can’t be satisfied because we are not happy with the few points obtained but we have to convince ourselves of this and having the awareness to play the game tomorrow because if we go with little awareness and with low ears tomorrow we wouldn’t have any hope.
“Instead we have to play, knowing that we are not doing what we could and we are doing discreetly, obviously we are achieving little or nothing.”
What difficulties will your team face tomorrow?
“Milan, a strong team that never makes mistakes at home, won against PSG. There are moments during the season and we both arrive with small problems both numerically and with results.”
How is Berardi?
“Domenico didn’t train the day after the match because he was ill, then he did all the training with the team. Fingers crossed because he was there with Genoa, he fell ill the night before the match, I can’t give an answer on this.”
Will you play Volpato from the first minute and Thorstvedt in midfield?
“We only have three midfielders, one of the three is a 2005-born player who has 30 games between Primavera 1 and Primavera 2 in two years.
“I like him, he will be a confident player, maybe he will make his debut tomorrow too, but now we have three midfielders, tomorrow we could play with two midfielders and an attacking midfielder or Lipani from the start.”
Sassuolo have won only one of their last 12 games: how is the mood? Are the many individual errors also the result of this moment, i.e. is it all a mental question?
“Anyway, this is what makes me sleep less. I also take responsibility, it’s not easy to train individual mistakes, you talk about it, but the best way is to deal with them, it’s to be superior, but as a team it acquires awareness.
“It’s okay for the team to lose a bit on errors, but we have to fight this. I am convinced of what I say: in the last 5 we are growing in attitude, in proposal. We can improve as a game proposal, yes, but I I see improvements, if we concede so many goals it is difficult to score three goals in every match.
“And the thing we need to improve is this: being more effective in the defensive phase knowing that it will be very difficult. Milan only conceded four goals at home…”
Which version of Sassuolo should we expect tomorrow?
“Whoever says it’s a coincidence or we’re not nice or they don’t love us, it’s not a coincidence if this thing happens again. We are more determined, despite the superior quality of our opponents, Milan is perhaps the team with the most talent in Serie A, more than we certainly find a different determination and we manage to win conflicts even with people stronger than us.
“We can talk about year 0 this year for us and it wasn’t a coincidence what the boys achieved but it’s not a coincidence that after good games you play less well and you can’t even understand why. If we are a team tomorrow we will have chances, we will be able to defend ourselves better.
“That doesn’t mean not conceding a goal, because then if the ball falls on a hand and it’s a penalty, if he makes an individual mistake, it can happen, it’s an incident and nothing can be done about it, then those who build rumours about this and talk about random results write to sell.
“They don’t write the truth. I speak because I know they listen to me the boys and I would like them to be convinced that we have the quality to do well, knowing that help will never come from outside: we have to do it alone.”