Stefano Pioli has commented on the knee injury of Simon Kjær, and suggested Milan will need to move the ball fast tomorrow to beat Salernitana.
After back-to-back defeats in Serie A, Milan returned to winning ways on Wednesday, beating Genoa 3-0 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Tomorrow they’ll look to get three points again, when they face Salernitana at Stadio San Siro (15:00 CET).
Today, coach Pioli held a press conference at Milanello, where he answered the various questions of the journalists, from Mauro Suma, through Sky and Milannews.it, and even questions from Twitch:
Are there pros and cons to playing in such close succession?
“By now we have got used to these close matches, we have our schedules. The times are always short, but we have studied the opponents well, recovered our energy and prepared for this match well.”
How did you experience the injury of Kjær?
“We experienced it with great dismay, we know the qualities of the player and the depth of the person. His presence in the team is very important for his charisma, personality and knowing how to say things at the right time.We are right behind Simon, worried for his situation but aware and sure that everyone will be fine and he’ll overcome these difficulties because he’s a very strong player and man.”
How is Leão’s growth path continuing?
“The path of Leão is the right one, one of an available and willing guy who wants to do and improve. He has to have more presence and more nastiness in the penalty area, and he has to have more conviction and strength when he attacks the goal.”
Can Pellegri play from the start?
“Pietro is available and is fine, as is Ibrahimović. Then, we’ll see who will play from the beginning and who will enter during the game.”
Given the intersections of the other teams, can tomorrow be an opportunity to bring Milan back to first place?
“Tomorrow will be an important game, also because we must have consistency, regardless of the matches of the others. Now that we have resumed playing at our usual level, we have one more opportunity to show we are a strong team. We face a tough opponent, they are a tricky side when it comes to non-possession because they’ll sit back, but when they do press, they do it very aggressively, intensively and they make sure that everyone is involved. We need a lot of quality to get past these opponents.”
Is the team equipped to replace Kjær or have you already spoken with the club to take action in the January mercato?
“If it is confirmed that Kjær’s stop will be a long one then there might be a need for a new signing. But we won’t do it just to take one, but only to improve the team. If there is the possibility then the club will be ready. Hopefully, however, there won’t be that need.”
Is there a risk that you will think about the match against Liverpool on Tuesday?
“No, absolutely no. We will think about Liverpool starting tomorrow night. There are 20 days left until the Christmas break and we have four important games. It will be a difficult match against Salernitana, Juve beat them with difficulty. We are not thinking about the Champions League game. Neither I, with the team I pick nor my players, because we need to get back to win consistently if we are to try to stay up at the top of the table because the opponents are very good and we need lots of points from here until the end, given that our objective is to improve on last season, especially in terms of points in the table.”
After the game against Genoa you said that Milan cannot afford to do their homework, what does that mean?
“It means that there are teams that can wait and manage the game, while there are teams like ours that have to go at 1000 miles per hour.We like our football, it’s very energy-demanding, it requires a lot of intensity, mentally speaking, which allows us to actually overcome any issues we encounter and exceed our limits.”
On the right, is there a starter in your head between Messias and Saelamaekers?
“They are both starters, just like Bakayoko is a starter in midfield and all the others. Our hierarchy is based on the players’ performances, their fitness level… it’s normal that if we have two strong players for the same role one could be 105% fit and one who’s at 80% and it’s normal that I choose the former. It’s good that everyone feels like they are starters. Competitiveness has to raise the bar of our performances, because if you play below par, you might lose your spot in the team.”
What memory do you have of Salerno, where you coached for the first time?
“I have a good memory, it was my first experience as a first team coach. I found myself well there, it’s a good environment.”
What should be changed in Serie A to reduce the number of injuries? Reduce the number of games?
“I think it’s difficult to organize a different calendar, but it is evident that we play too much and the health of the players is strongly at risk. You come back at night from an away game and then you play again two days later. There’s a lot of talk about rotation – for me all players are starters, but it’s normal to every now and then give some players take a breather physically and mentally in order to prevent injuries. But I have the good fortune of having all starters. It’s difficult to find a solution but the fact that we play a lot is clear to everyone. Every team has a few injuries players. Something should be changed. I don’t know what. Whether it is to reduce the summer vacation and lengthen the season, reduce the number of teams in the league, or something else.”
Is this December the most delicate month since you’ve been coaching Milan?
“I went through, especially at the beginning, some more difficult months. Then, if you coach Milan, all the months are difficult, but it’s fair because we’ve raised the level and that is what we wanted. I don’t think there is a more difficult or less difficult month: who would have said we’d lose to Fiorentina and Sassuolo, with all due respect to them. In fact all the games are difficult and must be faced one at a time to stay in front in a league as competitive as this year’s.”
Is it possible to push the same buttons that were pushed at the end of last season after two consecutive defeats against Sassuolo and Lazio, when the team didn’t concede any more goals?
“I am convinced that tomorrow we will have many chances of winning the game if we play an excellent game from the defensive standpoint.”
What does Kalulu need to improve at, especially as a central defender?
“His growth is evident, he always takes the field with personality but he still needs to improve a lot because he is young and he arrived last year without having played in a first team. He needs to improve a lot in terms of positioning without the ball, for a defender this is a crucial aspect. He can play multiple roles, that’s positive and he gives me more solutions.”
What more can Messias give you, considering Saelemaekers and he interpret their role differently?
“They have different characteristics. Messias prefers to put himself in the center more, while Saelemaekers goes more to the back. Both like to play between the lines. They also have to be good in the defensive phase in order to have more balance.”
In the management of Brahim Díaz, is it better to preserve him or to play him?
“When a player is well then it’s better for him to play, but then it depends on the matches, the situations and the moments. He needs to find more precision and quality. He has the qualities to make the through ball, he has to be very dangerous.”
Can you take stock of the injured players?
“Bennacer is available, after having had a couple of rough days with labyrinthitis. He trained today and should be available tomorrow. Calabria, Girod and Rebić are doing better. Castillejo is closer to resuming training with the rest of the group.”
Can Messias also play as a center forward?
“I think he and Brahim would be a good attacking pair: they wouldn’t give the opponents points of reference and they know how to attack in behind. It could be a solution.”
What kind of game will it be tomorrow?
“We will have to manage the ball with speed, they will play very tightly and if you move the ball slowly then you will never find the right spaces.”
What will you say to the players to keep them from thinking about Liverpool?
“There is no need to me to take action, I know them. We are not coming off 13 wins in a row, but rather from a period with some difficulties. We have to approach the game in the best way tomorrow and I’m sure we’ll do it. We will have to have consistency in terms of play and quality dribbling. We will encounter difficulties but we’ll have to overcome them by playing our football.”
Are you more away of the team’s strength?
“I always motivate the team. Sometimes in public and at other times in the locker room, which is my favorite place. The main thing is that they are motivated. How they motivate themselves or who motivates them is not important.”