Stefano Pioli wants AC Milan to go into international break on a high at Verona

By Sports Desk March 16, 2024

AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli is preparing for his side to push themselves when they face Verona in their final match before the international break.

Pioli’s men have a quick turnaround from Thursday night, when they made it two from two over Slavia Prague with a 3-1 win in their Europa League last-16 second leg encounter to book a quarter-final match-up with Roma next month.

First, the second-placed Serie A side will hope to gain more ground on leaders Inter and put more distance between themselves and Juventus, who sit just one point below the Rossoneri.

Pioli told Sky Sports Italy: “We’re fine, it’s a positive moment, our three offensive players have quality. We have to do well on Sunday in another difficult match against Verona, before recovering energy during the break.”

He also praised the efforts of Rafael Leao, who netted the third of AC Milan’s goals on Thursday with a stunning strike into the top corner.

Leao was in turn just as complimentary about his boss, telling Sky Sports Italy: “I’m feeling good, I’m getting along well with (Olivier) Giroud and (Christian) Pulisic, the team is also good.

“It’s my job to help the team even when I don’t score or assist. I’m very happy with myself, but it’s the team that’s doing well.

“As I always say, (Pioli) is one more person who helps me. In the last three years he has better understood how to help me 100 per cent to make a difference, so this good moment is also thanks to him.

“With Giroud and Pulisic we understand each other well. I don’t need to watch them because I already know where they are going in the area; then behind me I have Theo (Hernandez), with him I have an extra weapon.

“Everyone helps me to be a better player, then Pioli puts me in a position to feel calm by telling me ‘Come in and have fun’.”

Verona have lost their last six Serie A matches against AC Milan, and have not recorded a home victory over Sunday’s opponents since December 2017.

Marco Baroni’s men sit in 15th at a crowded bottom of the Serie A table, with just five points separating 13th-placed Lecce from 19th-placed Sassuolo in the second relegation place.

Baroni knows it will be a tough ask to try to gain ground against AC Milan, playing down their chances as he addressed the Italian media in a press conference.

He said: “When you play against these teams, it’s always difficult. Perhaps it’s their best moment too, I have respect for the coach but we have to look at ourselves. We have to play our best game and it might not be enough anyway.

“We have great respect for Milan, they have champions who can decide matches with one play but you don’t defend individually, you defend as a team, you play together and as a team in these matches.”

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