Pioli defends decision not to sign a goalkeeper with Maignan still sidelined

By Sports Desk February 09, 2023

Stefano Pioli has defended Milan's decision to not sign a new goalkeeper, despite first choice Mike Maignan still being ruled out indefinitely.

Maignan has not played for Milan since injuring his calf during France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on September 22.

The 27-year-old was subsequently ruled out of France's World Cup campaign and has now missed Milan's past 20 matches, with veteran goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu deputising.

Reigning Italian champions Milan's form has nosedived since the turn of the year, having gone seven matches without a win in all competitions, losing five of those.

Milan are unsure when Maignan will return, meaning Tatarusanu is set to start Friday's league game with Torino and next week's Champions League last-16 first leg with Tottenham.

It was previously suggested Milan's board were behind the decision to not recruit an established keeper in January, but Pioli has confirmed he also had a say in the matter.

"The choice was mine and that of the technical team," he said at Thursday's pre-match press conference ahead of facing Torino. 

"We have faith in Tatarusanu and we think that Maignan could be back in action soon."

Asked exactly when he expects Maignan to return to the side, Pioli said: "I don't know. His recovery is progressing well and he's returned to the field, albeit not with the team."

 

In better news on the injury front for Milan, veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to team training last week and is closing in on a comeback after nine months out injured.

Pioli, whose side have slipped to sixth and are 18 points off leaders Napoli, suggested Ibrahimovic may play a part against Torino.

"He's feeling better," Pioli said. "His role in the side is to be a great motivator and a great player. He'll be with us tomorrow because he wants to be with us."

Rafael Leao is pushing for a recall after being named as a substitute in Milan's past two Serie A games – not since between March and July 2020 has he been benched three games in a row.

"Leao is important for me and the team," Pioli said of the Chelsea-linked forward, who has nine goals and seven assists in 28 appearances this season.

"He's back from the World Cup and played well against Salernitana before losing a bit of his brilliance. He's much happier when he's playing, but I see a motivated and focused player."

Pioli is aiming to avoid losing four successive Serie A games as a manager for only the second time, having previously done so in 2012 as Bologna head coach.

Milan have lost their past two meetings with seventh-place Torino – not since 1969 have they lost three in a row in this fixture – and Pioli accepts an improvement is needed.

"They are a tricky team to play against," he said. "They have caused problems by pressing all over the pitch.

"We have to move a lot better and do something different compared to our past two games against them."

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