AC Milan's head coach, Stefano Pioli, spoke to the media in a press conference today ahead of the game against Cremonese in the Serie A. But, he was also asked about his thoughts regarding the Champions League draw of round 16 which put the Rossoneri to face Tottenham Hotspurs. Here are the gaffer's words:
"Champions League? No easy opponents. We will prepare as best we can. Tottenham are a strong opponent with a great coach. We have to play well and do it consistently, the games are prepared with a strategy and we must not let ourselves be carried away by the episodes that will be in the game. They will be determined and motivated but we will have to be too, it is an important moment, there are two games to go until the break and we want to get there at our best. Nobody expected that Napoli could make all these points, we will have to stay as close as possible."
Is it an easy draw?
"No, but unbeatable and perfect teams do not exist. There are difficulties, but the results have shown that we are strong. We have negative numbers with the British, we need to improve. We know that the level of our performance will have to be very high. If we have reached this level, it means that the team has certain characteristics of depth and value. We will play with the intention of passing the round."
On Ante Rebic and Divock Origi, Pioli said:
"We are playing a lot with a lot of mental and physical energy expenditure. When I can alternate attackers, I always do. We try to keep the level high and take advantage of the physical condition of our players. I have great memories of Zini as a player, I go back to the stadium where I scored my only goal in Serie A. (Giovanni Zini is Cremonese's stadium)."
On Zlatan Ibrahimovic:
"We all hope that Zlatan can return to play and feel good. His recovery is progressing well. Anything can happen between now and February. In the Champions League, the moment counts and how you get there, I hope to have the best team possible."
You already beat Antonio Conte in a derby before...
"The derby is a different match from the Champions League. I understand the questions but there is still a long time to go. We are focused on the next two league games before the break. Conte is a great coach who has won a lot and who gives a great mentality to his teams. They have very important individuals and many strong players who know us well. It will be a fascinating and balanced challenge on paper."
On the problems of the English teams:
"We will see it in a few months. The level is very high, there is no doubt. But ours is also growing, we have three Italians in the second round. Our path is made up of steps and this is one of them. Playing the first match at home will be a factor, we must try to do well there. In the offensive phase all our attacking midfielders have the freedom to move, they must read the spaces well and attack them. Charles (De Ketelaere) has to collaborate with his teammates when he has the ball, without him he has to respect reference points. Training? I will understand better in today's training and I will choose who to start from the beginning. It is not the quantity of minutes that counts but the quality. It may also be more important to enter from the bench during the match", said Pioli.
Marko Lazetic scored a hat-trick in the Primavera game against Atalanta yesterday...
" I am very happy for him, we follow them all very carefully and we are ready to let everyone play. I don't look at the ID card. Lucidity in front of the goal? All things can be improved, technically and mentally, if we play every ball as if it were the decisive one we get closer to a higher level. It is important to create scoring chances, we must have stubbornness, ability and determination to score a few more goals."
Pioli on Rade Krunic:
"He has different qualities than the attacking midfielders. When a player is intelligent, it doesn't matter where he plays, I only have positive judgments about him."
"Anyone of my players must think they are decisive in important matches. I underlined the negative results of the history of Milan against the English to motivate the squad. In defence, we lack attention and collaboration, talking on the pitch is very important."
"We don't think we are puncture-proof so as not to concede anything to the opponents. Not conceding a goal would give us a great guarantee of positive results."