Pioli warns Milan must not sit back to defend slender first-leg lead against Spurs

By Sports Desk March 07, 2023

Stefano Pioli warned his Milan players they cannot just sit back and defend their 1-0 first-leg lead at Tottenham in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

Pioli's men take a narrow advantage to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the second leg after Brahim Diaz's first goal since October put them ahead at San Siro.

Milan will return to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since the 2011-12 season if they avoid defeat, though Pioli cautioned his players not to sit back and just focus on defending on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow is the match of personalities," Pioli told reporters at his pre-match news conference. "Our opponents are formidable from an offensive point of view, they will play with great intensity.

"We must be prepared to control the game more. We have a very small advantage but we cannot think of managing it. We must attack and play with intensity."

Pioli is expecting a great atmosphere in north London, though is confident his team can focus on the task ahead of them, saying: "We expect a loud stadium, just like San Siro was.

"But the crowd doesn't score goals. We arrive with confidence, enthusiasm and determination."

Spurs have been boosted ahead of the game by the return of head coach Antonio Conte, who had been recovering in Italy after undergoing gallbladder surgery.

Pioli acknowledged the importance of Conte being on the sidelines for Spurs, and feels his team will have to match the Premier League side's intensity to secure their progression.

"Antonio Conte's presence on the bench will be an added value for Tottenham," Pioli added. "But beyond Conte, we will find a highly prepared and motivated opponent.

"Both teams want to go through this round. Tottenham will probably try to attack more than at San Siro. We have to watch out for particular moments."

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