Stefano Pioli has spoken ahead of tomorrow’s Derby della Madonnina, saying ‘we know it will be a very difficult game, but we are confident’.
The gap in the standings between Inter (2nd) and Milan (9th) is 19 points. On paper, the Nerazzurri are clear favorites for tomorrow’s game (20:45 CET kickoff), but the Derby has rules of its own.
Tomorrow, the boys of Pioli will go on the pitch of San Siro to try and get a win in a Serie A Derby della Madonnina and paint Milano in Red and Black for the first time since 2016.
“What is the true difference between Milan and Inter in terms of strength considering the big gap in the standings? Well, the truth is Inter did a lot better than we did at the start of the season, and since then we’ve been trying to catch up. We’ve been doing quite well and I’m sure we’ll do well in the Derby,” Pioli told reporters in the press room at Milanello on Saturday.
“Do I agree with the saying that ‘derbies are not played, they are won’? I completely agree. These are games, like every game, that must be prepared to be won. But there are some games that are worth more than others – games like this one. But as always, I believe that to win you need to play better than your opponents. That has to be our objective.
“How is Ibrahimović doing and if he’s fully available for tomorrow? Ibra carried out some individual training which had been programmed and had been planned ahead of time. If today he passes the test he’ll undergo then he’ll be available.
“If the Ibra condition a mind game similar to the one Inter are doing with Eriksen’s position and whether Handanović will play or not? Well, as far as I’m concerned, the best part of my job is getting players ready for the game. We have to work on our ideas, our concepts of play and we have to study our opponents’ abilities and characteristics. We’ve prepared very well for this match, we’ve prepared a very clear strategy. Hopefully, tomorrow proves to be right.
“If the fact that Eriksen might play behind Lukaku change our plans? No, it doesn’t worry and I don’t think it’ll change how our opponents actually play. I don’t think the positions on the field will make much difference. There’re tactical situations that are very clear and easy to read. We are working very hard to be ready, to be dangerous, to be a compact team, and to make the right choices when our opponents attack. Within each game there are many possibilities and we need to be able to seize them.
“I said Ibra will be available if he passes the test this afternoon? Yes, we’ve carried out everything that was right to do to allow Ibra to recover from his flu and his muscle fatigue. So far, things have gone to plan, but we have the final test to carry out today, which will be training with the team.
“The difference between the teams and how important Ibrahimović’s presence will be? I honestly don’t know how much distance there is between us and them. I know we’ll be facing a team that hasn’t lost a game in a long time. But we all need to have the mentality of Ibra tomorrow: with the right determination, intensity and aggressiveness. We must play the game to our full potential.
“If I spoke to Spalletti in private after his recent comments [Luciano said that he had spoken to Milan before Pioli was signed]? I haven’t wasted any time on those things, people who focus too much on the past or the future lose out on the present. I am fully focused on our present, on the challenges we have ahead of us, which we can win and can do well in. That’s all I think about.
“If Inter are the strong favorites for this game? Well, like I said, when you prepare a game like tomorrow’s, you definitely prepare to win it. The team is in good form, of course we have great respect for our opponents, and they are a very strong team. Physically and technically, very solid. We know it’ll be a very difficult game, but we are confident – and we must be confident and positive.
“If there’s something Milan excel at that Inter don’t? Well, we are creating a lot and taking a lot of shots. We have to keep a hold of this desire to be constantly dangerous. If there’s something we need to improve on tomorrow is that we cannot afford to not be solid and compact in both phases of play. We must not stretch out, we must not concede too much room to our opponents, we know what we have to do and we have to do it well.
“I’ve been at Milan for three months and what concepts from the one I’ve worked on would I like to especially see tomorrow? There are many things, but the most important is surely that a team must show on the field to have clear ideas and to carry out those ideas for all 95 minutes. In every game there are periods of difficulty, but when you have clear, well-defined ideas and concepts, you can overcome those difficulties and do well. That is what we need to do tomorrow, that is what we’ve been doing well recently and that is what we need to do in every game starting from tomorrow.
“Leão or Rebić from the start alongside Ibrahimović? Or why not both of them together…? I’ll make my choices, I’ll consider everything and I’ll try to pick the player with the characteristics best-suited for this game, keeping the other on the bench in order to eventually change the game.
“What differences are there between Conte and me and if there’s something I’m envious of him for or he’s envious of me for? I don’t know what the differences are, I know him as a colleague but to be able to judge such thing I’ll have to know him a lot better than I do. I don’t know him that well… I think that the most important thing for any coach is to be able to get into players’ heads. Then, each coach does it in their own way with their own characteristics and personality, but there’s nothing I envy him for. I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to stay here.
“Why can Milan win this Derby? Because we’re a strong team in good health, that is doing well with players who are capable of being decisive.
“What would it mean to win the Derby, besides the three points? It would be a massive boost to our confidence, it would be a massive boost to our belief in ourselves and to our position in the league. We have prepared very well for a very, very important game. We need to face this game with the right mentality and the right aggressiveness. Qualification for Europe is reliant on the next 16 games of the season.
“The condition of the players who were in doubt like Conti and Krunić? All players are recoverable, expect for Krunić who still has some problems but we’ll see about that today with the medical report.
“Who would I take away from Inter? No one, Inter will have 11 players on the field and so will we, that’s all there is to it.
“What hope can be given to the fans that tomorrow there’ll be a positive result considering it’s been a long time since Milan last won a Derby? Well, it’s certainly a great stimulus to win tomorrow given that we haven’t won in many years. Of course there’ll be a lot of difficulties, but we need to believe that we can win this game. We need to prove, we need to battle hard, to win this game. We need to be as precise as possible, we need to do the best we can. We’re in good form, we’re coming to this game in good shape, and we’re ready.
“If this is a test of fire for the team? In a way, yes. The same number of points are available as in any other game but everything else that surrounds this game is important. The team has proven that it has the courage to take on these games. We’ve been through very tough moments and we’ve shown that we have the right character to overcome them. We’ve shown we have the character to take responsibility and to step up. This is another opportunity to show that, as a team, we are strong and we are ready.
“What would Milan gain from a win? Like I said, there’s a lot to be gained. But before that, we need to train well, we need to prepare well… we’ve got two training sessions before the match and we need to prepare with the right conviction, the right determination and with the right mentality needed in these games.”