Thursday October 18 2018
Pioli: 'Astori is still with us'

Stefano Pioli and Fiorentina set their sights on Europe and the Coppa Italia, as the Coach explains their bond with Davide Astori. “He’s still with us.”

The Viola are one of the surprise packages of the season so far in Serie A and could challenge for a top four finish.

“I would very much like to qualify for Europe, but it won’t be easy. I think it’s clear to all that there are teams better equipped out there, but we’re ready to take advantage of any slip-ups,” said the Coach at a Q&A with La Repubblica newspaper.

“At this moment, I see a Fiorentina side that is ambitious, but not winning yet. There is a step between ambition and victory that we still need to cover. The Coppa Italia cannot be considered a secondary objective and it’s only right to target going all the way.”

Fiorentina were inevitably moulded by the sudden death of captain Astori in March, as he went to sleep in the team hotel ahead of a game with Udinese and never woke up.

“Astori and Milan Badelj were my reference points in the locker room. The team had changed so much that summer and I leaned on them for support, as everyone did with Davide.

“What happened was a shock and it pushed me to appreciate my players even more on a human level. What Vitor Hugo said recently is the truth: Davide is still with us.

“The lads who were here last season have done so well to pass that situation on to the new arrivals. We are a team with an extra reason to do well.

“These lads were so strong and united in their grief. I simply told them to carry on what we had started with Astori. I always did get very fond of my players, but even more so with this group. I think what happened united us even more and made us feel stronger.”

When Cristiano Biraghi scored his debut Italy goal in the Nations League victory over Poland, he held up his fingers to form a 13 – Astori’s number.

“I was so proud of him after that goal, for the work we’d done together and his great desire to improve. Biraghi was always aware of his weaknesses and is one of those players I feel that as a Coach I can really help to grow stronger.

“Federico Chiesa has a great chance of pace, can shoot with his right or left foot, and is approaching a level that will make him a complete player.”

Pioli also had experience of Fiorentina as a player, but admitted as a Coach he has more time and freedom to roam the city, especially on his bicycle.

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