Stefano Pioli confirmed that Rafael Leao and Junior Messias are fit and should be part of the Milan squad to face Inter in the Champions League semi-finals. The Rossoneri are two goals down from the first leg and will need an improved performance if they are to stand any chance against Inter. A disappointing 2-0 loss to Spezia punctuated a poor run of form, and speaking ahead of the match, Pioli talked about the belief that his players have in their ability to achieve a result and what he believes the team need to do better in derby matches against Inter:
In these hours, what are the eyes of the team telling you?
“That there is concentration and motivation, that they are preparing as best as possible to try to win tomorrow’s match.”
How is Leao? Will he be there?
“He is better, as are Krunic and Messias. If everything goes as it should, they will be available for this afternoon’s call-up and will be of the game tomorrow.”
In some ways is it easier to prepare for tomorrow’s game?
“I don’t think it is easy. I think we have an important goal which is to win the game and try to qualify for the Champions League final, which no one would have predicted, just as at the beginning of the year no one would have predicted us being in the semifinals. The preparation will be the best possible. I know we can play a great game and I know how strong my players are.”
How do you prepare for a game with this disadvantage and how did you experience this week?
“I lived it with the goal of putting in a great performance. The level of the second half of the first half will not be enough, we have to raise the level. The game is long, we want to start it better and we need to make as few mistakes as possible and take advantage of their mistakes.”
In the derbies you have suffered from early setbacks. What do you need to do to avoid repeating the mistakes of other times?
“We have to get to the second balls earlier, have a different approach than the last times.”
You have always said that these matches prepare themselves. Is there a key you’ve been banging on in recent days?
“We only talked about the derby. These are matches we dream about. We know we have a handicap as well as we have the qualities to turn it around.”
Without Bennacer, what midfield will we see?
“Sorry to hear about Isma’s injury. He will have surgery tomorrow morning. We will play with other characteristics, with an extra trequartista compared to the first leg. Maybe it goes better than the first leg.”
Are there any past experiences that can inspire you?
“Those who play football know that games are never over until the end and feats exist. And we believe in them.”
Is it a cliché or the truth that Inter is the team that gives Milan the most trouble?
“Inter is a strong team that has characteristics that have put us in difficulty.”
With Calhanoglu as regista, does he put you in more difficulty than Brozovic?
“No, I don’t think that’s the situation.”
On set-piece situations, is it just a matter of centimeters or is it also a matter of concentration? Is the difference in offensive production only due to the options?
“We are not a very tall team, that’s a fact. We need to defend more and better on loose balls. We had our offensive chances, but we didn’t take advantage of them. We have to capitalize as much as possible on the chances we create. Inter will concede something to us and we have to take advantage of it.”
In the first match there were similar mistakes in other derbies. And it seemed that Inter had more legs. Are there tactical and mental difficulties?
“We made mistakes. They are not the same as the other times. We have to limit our mistakes as much as possible. We have to be more ready to read situations.”
Will Leao play tomorrow?
“If he makes the full squad, he will play from the start.”