The first frenetic cycle of the season for the Rossoneri ends with a match that evokes decidedly happy memories from its most recent instalment: Atalanta v AC Milan forms part of matchday seven in Serie A, the last before the October international break. Coach Stefano Pioli spoke in his press conference at Milanello to preview the match scheduled for Sunday 3 October at 20:45 CEST at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo, with his comments broadcast live on Milan TV, the AC Milan Official App and on the AC Milan YouTube channel.
BERGAMO WAS THE BEGINNING
"In January 2020, after that notorious Atalanta v AC Milan match, our journey began with the arrivals of Ibra, Kjær and Saelemaekers. Tomorrow will be an important match against one of the major sides in Serie A who have continuously played in the Champions League in recent seasons. We’ve prepared for it in a careful fashion. We’ve had the chance to recover, with both ourselves and our opponents having played a lot of matches recently. We are, however, more aware of our qualities, our characteristics and how we need to be on the pitch. We’ve prepared well."
HOW THE ROSSONERI ARE DOING
"We played really well against Atlético, proving that we’re competitive at the highest levels. Then, a few incidents happened that prevented us from achieving what would have been a deserved result. We’re now focused on tomorrow’s game, which will close a bit of a cycle in the league. We want to produce a good display and play our cards. It’s a six-pointer and, while we have great respect for Atalanta, we also have a lot of belief in our qualities. In the past few years, they’ve always played in a proactive fashion and picked up the pace over the course of the season. They were involved in a spectacular game against Inter at San Siro and won in the Champions League. They’re well-coached and a strong team in all respects, and they will certainly give us a hard time. I expect them to be determined and focused. It’s a Champions League worthy showdown."
"Franck’s attitude couldn’t be better. He’s an attentive, professional and focused player who always gives 100%, both in training and during matches. He’s a bit behind in terms of fitness levels, but I think this is normal after the summer he had, when he was involved in the Olympics. I think it’d be very wrong to judge performances based on a contract situation: a player with a lifelong contract can get it just as wrong as someone whose contract is expiring. I’ll assess him based on what he gives me out on the pitch. The time will come for decisions relating to his contract, but we’re interested in the attitude of the player and his desire to embrace our way of playing. This is the only thing that counts, and it’s something that Franck really thrives in. The rest doesn’t interest me."
"How much longer can Zlatan carry on playing? I don’t know. In terms of his enthusiasm and desire to train, I’d say that he could play forever, but his body will be his guide. He’s motivated, determined and incredibly passionate about this sport. He’s an extraordinary talent. If I could give him a gift, I’d extend his career as much as possible."
CONDITION OF THE SQUAD
"Ibra won’t be in the matchday squad. He’s doing better and will use the break to recover. I hope that this will also apply to all of his teammates who are currently unavailable. Bennacer needed to get some minutes under his belt and is getting back into his best shape. Giroud is still recovering: his back problem still hasn’t fully cleared up, but I expect him to be fully fit after the international break. Messias will be available, and I believe he will lend us a big hand: he’s a quality player who I think can play on the right and in the centre."
MOVING ON FROM ATLÉTICO
"Defeats should give us positive energy. We’ve never set a game aside and forgotten about it: we always analyse everything. We’ve shown that we’re a competitive team at the highest level, while there has also been growth on an individual level. For Atlético’s first goal, we could have been more attentive and determined. We’ll try to put into practice what we’ve learnt from this experience, starting from tomorrow. We need to transform this defeat into positive energy."
"For me, I’ve got two starters in Leão and Rebić on the left. They’re great players, and I’ve been very pleased with their performances in this period. In midfield, I have three starters that are doing well: two will play from the beginning, while one will most likely come on in the second half. In the next cycle of matches, we’ll have seven games in 21 days, with fixtures against Roma, Porto and Inter bringing things to a close. Everyone will have a chance. The important thing is for the players to give their all at all times out on the pitch."
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