Stefano Pioli has spoken ahead of the Juventus game, underlying the importance of intensity, while discussing many other things, such as a possible switch to a three-man defense.
Milan have already recorded six defeats this season and tomorrow they have the most difficult game of the campaign, as they face Juventus at the Allianz Stadium (20:45 CET / Italy time kickoff).
Coach Pioli is thinking of a switch to a three-man defense, but regardless of how the Rossoneri line-up, it’s clear and obvious that Maurizio Sarri’s side are the favorites. Pioli, in any case, wants his team to play with their heads-held-high.
“If we can tackle, over 90 minutes, the gap that has been created between Juventus and Milan over the last 8 years, considering the declarations of Bennacer and Krunić this week? I trust my players and if they made certain comments then it’s because they believe that they can ultimately achieve it,” Pioli told reporters in today’s press conference. “The table currently tells us that we’re a long way off Juventus but every match starts as 11 vs 11, nil-nil. We know that we face a very tricky match and we’re up against one of the best team in Italy, one of the best sides in Europe, but big matches also mean big opportunities so we need to play with our heads held high.
“If we can correct individual mistakes on the training ground, considering we could’ve had 8 points from 4 games without such errors? Four points from four matches are not many, we should have had a few more, certainly. We do have certain regrets, but we need to make sure that we pay a closer eye on all the details because we’ve played all four of these matches, and I think we have gone toe-to-toe with all of the oppositions, but in a few areas we’ve been caught off guard, we weren’t as neat and tide as we should’ve been and we paid very highly for those mistakes.
“Ultimately, though, we need to use this experience to develop and also to become a better side because we need a big performance tomorrow night, it needs to be better than the display that we showed in the last game; against Lazio it was a good performance, but we’re up against a team that will require us to try and play both to our strengths and also their weaknesses, but it’ll be a of a much higher level than the game we played recently. One of the targets, one of the key points of tomorrow night, will be that: we need to be more neat and tidy, make few mistakes and I think we ultimately can get some joy.
“If we need consistency or big matches to try to turn things around and if the fact that Milan never won at Juventus stadium help me to push on for a big victory? Yes, I think so. I think that would really help a great deal. It’s very difficult to talk about turnarounds because the next match can be a turnaround; if you win tomorrow night then you need to start thinking about the Napoli game, because ultimately what matters is the final league table and we need to get a lot of points, we are a long way behind and we need to pick up as many points as possible.
“But from a morale-physiological-mental perspective, playing well tomorrow night can be very important. We have to try to focus very clearly on what we need to do tomorrow night because as I said, it’s a great opportunity, it’s a very tough match. But we need to be ready to battle, compete and never give up. A change of formation against Juventus? I think you try to test things out in training sessions, we’ll see which formation we use tomorrow night.
“What do I have to say to the fans, after Suso asked them to be patient? To keep supporting us as they have done thus far. The fans drove us on against Lazio for all 90 minutes, right until the death, even though there were some tough moments as well. If there’s someone who’s not at fault at Milan now then it’s the fans. We need to keep developing, we need to produce big performances and try and get results for these supporters, doing anything to allow us to overcome this difficult moment in time.
“If I think that a three-man defense can resolve the defensive issues of this team? When I make decisions I obviously try to do so to have more advantages than disadvantages, both in terms of personnel and the system that I choose. We did that in the second half of the Lazio game last Sunday, and I don’t think it’s simply an issue of positioning on the pitch, which can give you greater balance or greater solidity. As a team, we need to set out well, we need to be switched-on, and we need to be compact and more aggressive, because tomorrow we come out against a quality side. Juventus always make the right decision: if they need to keep the ball then they do so, if they try to knock it long and play directly through Bonucci and play the ball in behind, they can do it. So we need to read all of the various situations. But I don’t think there is a better formation than any other one. What matters is ultimately having the right attributes in order to tackle tomorrow night’s game.
“If I think that the aspect of fear has been overcome and the players are freer now, considering the words of Paquetá, Krunić and others? If the players vote for Pioli, then they have to win matches. I’m a good coach if they win matches, that’s ultimately what matters. Whether they prepare well or train well must be the case because they are professionals and they play for Milan, so that has to be that way. If they get behind me then they need to show it on the pitch and in their performances.
“What do I make of Sarri’s Juventus? I watched Juventus’ first two matches in Parma and Florence this season, I saw them live and in those two games Juventus weren’t as dominant on the pitch as they’ve since become. They struggled in those first two games but I think that’s quite normal. They are a complete side now, complete in that there are very few weaknesses. I don’t know and don’t ask me if we need to produce a perfect performance tomorrow, because there’s no such thing as perfect display, equally there’s no such thing as a perfect team, but Juve are complete because they can defend well, they can dig in, they can attack. But of course they have weaknesses as well and we need to try to expose those weaknesses.
“Why do Italian sides not run more than they already do, considering Fabio Capello’s comments that Italian teams have a physical problem when playing in Europe? I think intensity is ultimately what makes the difference. But, from the statistics that I have I don’t think they run more than us in general terms. They have great accelerations in terms of intensity. But once again, it comes down to the culture and atmosphere which is different. The fact that are fewer decisions being made [by the referees], the players have to get used to not protesting decisions, not wasting time and the entire footballing culture needs to grow from that perspective.
“But I agree with Capello in that intensity makes the different in Europe, as well as quality. Liverpool don’t only win the Champions League because of their intensity, it’s also their quality with Firmino, Mané and Salah. It’s important to have intensity… if you can have intensity as well as the right attitude and hard work from every single player on the pitch, quality ultimately gives you the greater possible chance of winning. I saw Atalanta against Manchester City the other night: Man City are a phenomenal team and there’s not one player in that team that stood still, that isn’t going to press, that isn’t defending their own goal from the first minute to the last, even the forwards. I think it’s all about the attitude, attitude before quality. If you can have both then you can have good results.
“If the tactical set-up needs to be adapted to the players you have available and if this team has the attributes to reach the objectives? I believe in principles of play, and those are things I want coach when we’re attacking and defending. But ultimately I need to do a good job of picking the players and putting them in the right conditions so they can express their greatest potential. So I need to put them on the pitch where they feel good, and where they can be in a position to produce their best football. That’s what I believe. Whether it’s three or six up front, or five at the back doesn’t really matter. Intensity needs to improve, we need to improve there and we can do that with specific training sessions, we need to have quality sessions on the training ground. It mustn’t be long-slow training sessions, I want short-snap-sharp sessions.
“Gazidis said that the Juventus match is a great opportunity and if I’ve come up with a different definition for it? It’s a great challenge and a huge opportunity, of course. Our attitude needs to be exactly that. We know that there will be a lot of difficulties in the game but we also know that we need to be focused and switched-on for 95 minutes.
“If in the month that I’ve been here I noticed that there’s a lack of experience at Milan, not only on-the-pitch but also in off-the-pitch issues? We’re a young team, but we’re not an immature and inexperienced team. It’s not true because in the dressing room we have some important professionals, there are some players who also have significant experiences: Biglia captained Argentina, Reina is very experienced and I think Suso is 25 or 26, but he’s a proper player, a fully-developed individual, so much like Romagnoli. Donnarumma is 20 but he’s mature and aware. They know where they are, who they are working for and how to do a good job. I think we have the right maturity to do a good job and to perform well. We lack a bit of confidence, a little bit of self-belief, but ultimately these things do come from hard work but they can come through getting results. So we need to try to look for results with a great deal of energy. That is what helps the team develop, that allows you to become convinced of your ability and know how much you can achieve.
“Capello said that the only players bought recently that are ‘da Milan’ are Theo and Leão? I’m not here to say whether I agree or not with Capello, Fabio is a great football express and a great coach but in order to properly assess a player, you need to coach them and get to know them. I think we have more than one player who can become excellent.
“If I spoke to Leão during the week to understand why he played the way he did against Lazio? Of course I spoke to Rafael and I spoke to him about what he did and didn’t do in the Lazio game. He’s well-aware of the fact that he didn’t come on with the right spirit. He’s a young guy and I hope he’s learned the lesson from that. I expect that his next performance will be on a different level.
“What is Piątek lacking to get back to his best and look like the player he was last season? First and foremost, I think we need to try and play in the opposition’s box as much as possible, if we are to get the best out of Piątek and that is what we’re trying to do, that’s something I think we’ve done quite well in certain games, as well with Leão, having the opportunity to have the space to try to be dangerous. So we’re going to try and exploit Piątek’s attributes, once we start to get a few more quality services into the box and Piątek is not able to score then we’ll start to wonder why.
“How is Conti doing? I think he’s physically fit, he’s got good fitness levels – in fact I think he’s got one of the best fitness levels of the entire group. I think he produced a good performance in our home match against Lecce, apart from the penalty decision. But he needs to be a lot better from a mental perspective to overcome the difficulties you face during a football match. It’s only natural that a player makes mistakes, but you can’t get too hung-up on mistakes you make, the ability of a player who has to come with overcoming those mistakes and when you are a defender you have to stay switched-on, you need to be very focus, and you need to have a very high-level of concentration for 95 minutes. But I think he has the attributes and qualities to do so and perform well.
“If Suso has recovered from his groin issue? Yes, he’s had a good week in training and I think he trained all week long, he looked good in terms of his fitness levels so he’s available for selection.
“If I, theoretically, use a player like Ibrahimović at Milan? Look, if we’re already starting to talk about the January transfer window, then it’s going to be pretty tough… Ibrahimović is a great professional and a great player. End of story. The mercato is still a long way off and there’ll be time to assess it.
“How can you stop a player like Cristiano Ronaldo and where would I put him in terms of the all-time greats? It’s very hard to say how you can stop Ronaldo, because he has so many different ways in which he can hurt you: in the air, he can shoot from distance, he can dribble past players… he’s a phenomenal superstar. You need to be more careful against a player like Ronaldo, those operating close to Ronaldo need to be switched-on, determined and not allow him too much space. Because he only need an inch to be able to hurt you. As for where he is, he’s a superstar, he’s one of the best, with Maradona, Platini, Messi, Ronaldo, Pele… I don’t know, you can’t really make too many mistakes with those. He’s certainly among one of the best players of all time. His goals-per-game ratio is impressive, his ambition too is impressive.
“I read an interview with Douglas Costa and he said something wonderful about Ronaldo – read the interview and then you can tell me what it is…”