Milan coach Stefano Pioli heralded their 1-0 win over Napoli at the San Siro as a ‘balanced and orderly’ performance. A single goal from Theo Hernandez was enough to consolidate third place for the Rossoneri, putting them 10 points clear of Atalanta in third place. Speaking in the post match, Pioli commented on the standings and analysed the match as he saw it:
The standings, eight points from the top…
“We are doing well in the last month and a half, we are almost travelling at the very high pace of Inter. Inter are having an incredible season and we are trying to try to win every match from here to the end, we’ll see what we can do.
“There’s no point in looking back, now the Europa League is coming too. There will be more commitments and there will be an even greater expenditure of energy: we will have to be good at doing well in Europe and in the league.”
Will you analyse the poor counter-attacks that could have ended the game?
“We had the chance to double the lead, we’ll see them again. But matches with us are never over anyway (laughs), so it’s good to have won a match like this, we needed to work so well in the defensive phase while being careful. We fought as a team, we wanted to win. These are important situations.”
How are Bennacer and Calabria?
“Isma I think was just tiredness, at the end of the first half he told me he was tired. But he’s fine, he comes from the Africa Cup of Nations and an injury. Calabria has an adductor problem but we don’t yet know the extent of it, to be evaluated in the next few days.
“Thiaw will return but I don’t think he will play from the start. We’re looking forward to Thursday, we want to do well in the first leg and take a small advantage.”
How did you deal with Kvara’s position?
“In the last match they surprisingly went back to four-man defence against Verona, we didn’t know what system they would use. Then in the middle of the week the news came out that Kvara could play closer to the striker.
“I believe that in the first half with their 3-5-2 we took good positions, in the second half with 4-3-3 they created some more situations. We could have attacked their four better with our three and we dropped deep.”
Today Milan defended with more order and with the ability to suffer…
“I have had many discussions with the players in recent weeks about our attitudes in the defensive phase and being more compact, less inclined to immediately attack high up the pitch can help us.
“Then it’s our three attackers who have to give us the signal. It was a balanced, orderly Milan. They made us work hard but no one held back. These results here give us a partial ranking, we have to look to the next one.”
Did Theo and Leao look back to their best?
“Yes. Out of necessity Theo had made himself available to play as a central defender and in my opinion he did it brilliantly. On the wing they hear each other, they smell each other, they know each other, they kiss each other, I kiss them too when they score a goal (laughs).
“I think Theo had difficulty last year in getting over the disappointment of the World Cup final, the fatigue of the World Cup in that period. This year when we restarted the season I found him to be very positive, very proactive.
“He has become a leader of this team, he doesn’t talk much. The games he played as a central defender made him understand how much more attentive and active he can be in the defensive phase. He has such great potential that he absolutely must continue like this.”
Now there’s Rennes, what kind of a game will it be?
“A difficult challenge. I also saw them today against Le Havre, even if they struggled more. It is a team that is mentally and physically well, has quality players and skill. It will be a difficult challenge. We will have to try to do well immediately at home.”
Thanks to the win, Milan have put some pressure on Juventus who will play against Udinese tomorrow (Monday). Just one point separates the two sides and the Rossoneri will be looking to leapfrog the Bianconeri as soon as possible.