Stefano Pioli underlined his trust in his Milan squad as they prepare to head to Rome to face Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio.
The Rossoneri cannot afford to drop points to the Biancocelesti as they look to stay hot on the heels of league leaders Napoli, who currently have a 12-point lead at the top of the table. Pioli’s side have drawn three of their last five outings and their Supercoppa Italiana loss to Inter will have to be forgotten as they work to stay in the title race.
Speaking in a press conference, Pioli first discussed the difficult moment Milan are going through.
“We have to face these moments, it will be another exam to overcome with humility and unity. Criticism is there, because the performances have been below our possibilities and the expectations, which, being Milan, are very high, we have strong roots.
“There have been experiences with lightness and good humour, now we need compactness and the will to react. My players are not bad, they deserve my trust and respect.”
He touched on how the team can bounce back.
“We needed to reset. The situations to improve are tactical, technical and mental. The most important aspect is the mental one.
“It’s good to remember how we managed to win last year in Rome, going through difficulties, but maintaining balance and focus until winning the game at the end.”
The Rossoneri coach spoke about if any problems were starting to linger for longer than before.
“When you coach such a strong team, it’s normal that my expectations are also aimed at a maximum performance and result.
“From the missed victory against Roma to the derby, we had to do more. Now we have two options: either to continue feeling sorry for ourselves or to react. I’m sure it’s the latter.”
Pioli commented on what he expects from Sarri’s Lazio in the match.
“They’re having a very good season, coached by a very capable coach, with a very precise identity. Felipe Anderson is playing very well as a central striker.”
He provided an update on veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“His recovery is progressing well, he’s sticking to his work schedule. He started working separately on the pitch again, not with the rest of the group.
“His recovery remains to be evaluated day by day, I can’t say when he will return. Then he is always present in the locker room and will certainly have spoken with his teammates.”
The Milan coach was asked if France’s World Cup final defeat has had an impact on Theo Hernandez and Olivier Giroud.
“They’re fine, our underlying numbers say so too. I talk to them every day. Then there can be a slight psychological backlash after the lost final.”
He predicted what kind of game Lazio and Milan will play.
“These are two teams trying to dominate the game. We will have to be more dominant than them.
“They have quality players, leaving Lazio the ball would mean allowing these players to put us in trouble.”
Finally, Pioli discussed the identity and DNA of the team.
“A team does not lose its identity in two or three bad games. We struggled to develop our situations, but the identity is there, and we’ll be able to put it on the pitch as early as tomorrow.”