Stefano Pioli ‘respects Romelu Lukaku but prefers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and confirms Mario Mandzukic will miss the derby with an injury.
Pioli begun his press conference sending his condolences to the family of the Inter Scudetto winner Mauro Bellugi who passed away today aged 71.
“We have just been told about his death and we want to send our condolences to his family,” the Milan coach said.
“We’ve prepared the derby with a cold head and a hot heart, but also with humility and determination,” Pioli continued.
Around 300 Milan fans gathered outside Milanello to support the Rossoneri this morning.
“Our fans are special, it’s a pity we can’t play in a packed San Siro. They’ve always supported and us. We hope it’s the last derby without them.
“Both us and Inter have a clear identity. The derbies are always balanced matches with many goal scoring opportunities.
“Tomorrow we must be compact and try to be clinical, we want to play a high-level game,” Pioli added.
How are they going to cope with Inter’s pressure?
“In our preparation we always think about how our opponents can attack us, we must be lucid and precise.
“Opponents always give some spaces and we must make the right choices,” Pioli explained.
Sandro Tonali could start to replace the injured Ismael Bennacer.
“I am absolutely convinced that Tonali has enormous potential, but he is very young,” Pioli claimed.
“He’s growing up well, he’ll be a very strong player, but he’s showing his own qualities.
“Even if you are young, you have to live up to expectations, but he is serene and motivated, like his teammates.”
Milan faced defeat against Spezia and picked up a draw away at Red Star on Thursday in their last two games.
“We did not raise our level of play, even the defensive phase did not see us as solid and compact.
“Tomorrow we must be very careful and determined. We must have the right distances.
“Milan’s target is to continue our path of which we are satisfied. We are happy to be the youngest team and the surprise of the championship.
“Our goal is to give the best, we’ll see what we’ve achieved at the end of the season.
“There are many games left before the end of the season, we have no long-term goals.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku clashed exactly one month ago in a Coppa Italia meeting.
“It would have been better if it had not happened, but tomorrow is another game, there will be duels, clashes, it is a very heartfelt game, but there will also be great respect and professionalism.
“I respect Lukaku, but I prefer Ibra,” Pioli added.
“Tomorrow’s game must be a collective one, Milan must play as a team. It is the collective that highlights the qualities of the individual.
“We have to play well because we know how to do it, we have the technical qualities.”
Mario Mandzukic will be out of action with an injury.
“He had a slight injury, he was already working today. I hope it’s not a long absence, he was getting into condition.”
Can Milan play for a draw?
“If you approach the game thinking about a draw, you are closer to losing, tomorrow we’ll play to win.”
Is Fikayo Tomori the right man to stop Romelu Lukaku?
“He is doing well, he has different characteristics than others.
“But for technical and physical characteristics Tomori is better at facing Lautaro or Sanchez. He is aggressive but does not have the physicality to challenge such powerful strikers.
“I’m very happy with his performance, he’s getting ready”.