Saturday October 3 2020
Pioli: 'Going to be a long Milan season'

Stefano Pioli urges Milan to ‘be more determined’ than Spezia and warns they must get used to the strain of Europa League and Serie A football.

It kicks off on Sunday at 17.00 UK time (16.00 GMT), click here for a match preview.

There is the risk of fatigue after Thursday’s epic Europa League play-off with Rio Ave, which ended 2-2 after extra time and went through 24 penalties before the shoot-out was decided.

“That target was too important for us, we had been in control and then it all became more difficult, but we have to focus on the present and try to build a positive future,” said the coach in his press conference.

“You emerge from these situations more mature, stronger and ready for the next challenge. It’s a long journey ahead of us and we have to get accustomed to playing twice a week. We can’t just stop if we feel tired.

“It’s important that the mental intensity never wavers, as well as physical. Tomorrow is another tough test, as Spezia won away to Udinese, so will be enthusiastic and fired up.”

Today is Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 39th birthday, but he is still out of action with COVID-19, while Ante Rebic dislocated his elbow. Could new signing Jens Hauge get a look-in?

“We have a few options to evaluate for upfront and that includes cards we can play off the bench. Hauge could come on, he’s in better shape physically than anyone else, but he only arrived yesterday and needs to get to know situations. He’s called up, then we’ll see.

“Franck Kessie has a slight injury, we’ll see today how he does in training, he’s one of those who has kept us afloat. We knew this was going to be a tiring start to the season and I didn’t have many choices in some areas of the team, but we have to grit our teeth and get to the end of this first run of games.

“Every match has dangers and we must face each one with decision. Spezia changed 15-16 players from last season, but maintained the tactical ideas of their coach and we must be more determined than them tomorrow.”

Diogo Dalot is flying in today to complete his loan move from Manchester United, while talks are also intensifying for Schalke 04 defender Ozan Kabak.

“I will only talk about players when they arrive,” noted Pioli. “The club is doing everything to improve the level of the squad and I hope to get as many players back from injury as possible too. It’s going to be a long and complicated season.”

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