Pioli calls for Milan response ahead of Inter derby

By Sports Desk January 25, 2021

Stefano Pioli wants to see a reaction from his players in the Coppa Italia showdown with Inter following Milan's humbling home loss to Atalanta last time out.

The Serie A leaders went down 3-0 at home to Gian Piero Gasperini's side on Saturday, though they still have a two-point cushion over their next opponents at the halfway stage of the 2020-21 season. 

Next up is the small matter of a derby against Inter on Tuesday, an opportunity for Milan to quickly move on from such a disappointing result and reach the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia. 

The Rossoneri came out on top when the teams met earlier in the season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's early double proving enough in a 2-1 triumph. 

"It's a different competition, but one we care about. The league is a different story," Pioli told the club's official website ahead of the game.  

"The next derby will be in a month, with other important games beforehand, so this is just a Coppa Italia match. However, it is an important quarter-final we need to face in the best way. 

"As always, there are opponents to face, dangerous opponents, but we are determined to bounce back with a good performance.  

"The Coppa is a competition we care about and aim to win, because in the end all the big teams in the league find themselves in this position, facing off in the quarter and semi-finals.   

"We weren't particularly lucky in the draw. We are in the toughest section, but if you want to win the Coppa, you have to face everyone.  

"It's important to us and we'll do our best to win."

Pioli confirmed Ismael Bennacer is not quite ready to return - the midfielder is on course to be available for Saturday's trip to Bologna, though - while Hakan Calhanoglu is also still out.

New recruit Mario Mandzukic suffered an issue at the weekend after making his debut as a second-half substitute, albeit the striker has not yet been ruled out entirely.

Milan have not lifted the Coppa Italia since 2003, while their last Scudetto arrived a decade ago. Pioli appreciates there is pressure to succeed, particularly after a strong first half to the campaign, but insists that is all part of the job when in charge of such a big club.

"Last Saturday reminded us that if we can't maintain our level, we run the risk of losing against these opponents," he added.

"So, our objective is to make an even greater effort, a more determined one to try to maintain our standing through until the end of the season. 

"We want to be ambitious and win all our games. When we don't, we work even harder to make sure the situation doesn't happen again.  

"That's why pressure is a privilege we must live with, or rather we must want this pressure because we're at a great club - pressure and expectations are a part of that."

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    The Rossoneri slumped to a shock 2-1 loss as Emmanuel Gyasi scored with almost the final kick of a thriller at San Siro.

    Title rivals Inter drew 0-0 with Atalanta on Sunday, but Milan failed to claim a win that would have sent them to the Serie A summit.

    The hosts dominated the first half and took a deserved lead through Rafael Leao, just after Theo Hernandez had missed a penalty.

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    While Pioli was keen to point out the official's error, he acknowledged Milan did not control the game well enough.

    "I tried to calm my players down, but I didn't manage as Spezia's goal proves," he told DAZN.

    "We knew it was an injustice, we have ourselves to blame, but we share responsibility with the referee.

    "I am sorry to say that. He even apologised, maybe that wasn't even a fault. It's a shame.

    "However, we should have scored more goals in the first half. It's a bad night and we must react now."

     

    Milan had 25 attempts in total, with eight on target. It was the most shots they have managed in a Serie A defeat since December 2017 against Verona (31).

    Leao was a standout performer with four shots and as many key passes, while Ibrahimovic, making his 150th league appearance for the club, had a team-leading eight efforts.

    "We could have won the game, somehow we lost," said Pioli, whose side finished the match with an expected goals (xG) value of 2.5.

    "We knew we had a good chance, Leao's goal should have given us self-confidence, we failed to seal a win that we strongly wanted, but the season is still long."

    Milan remain second, two points behind Inter and one ahead of Napoli in third, with Juventus next up on Sunday.

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    Milan slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to Spezia as Emmanuel Gyasi scored with almost the final kick of a thriller at San Siro.

    Title rivals Inter drew 0-0 with Atalanta on Sunday, but Milan could not take advantage the following day as Spezia came from behind in incredible fashion.

    Rafael Leao put Milan ahead after Theo Hernandez's penalty miss, but Kevin Agudelo levelled midway through the second half.

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