Saturday January 9 2021
Pioli 'not surprised' by Milan response

Stefano Pioli was ‘not at all surprised’ that Milan bounced back immediately to beat Torino, but the injuries and suspensions are still causing problems.

The Rossoneri put the defeat to Juventus behind them with a 2-0 victory at San Siro, decided by Rafael Leao and a Franck Kessie penalty.

Considering Roma and Inter go head-to-head tomorrow at 11.30 GMT, their lead could even extend at the top of the table.

“I must admit, I was not at all surprised by this performance,” the coach told DAZN.

“I know these lads and expected them to give this kind of a response. The first half was excellent, particularly in terms of quality, and we inevitably came under pressure during the second half against a Torino side in good form.”

Kessie not only converted the penalty, but is confirming his status as one of the only players Milan simply cannot do without.

“Franck is a complete player, he gives us physicality, energy, quality, protects the defence and knits the moves going forward too. He has this eternally positive mentality in the match situation, he’s the first to help out a teammate or reassure them. This is a young side that needs guidance and encouragement, so Kessie is invaluable in that sense.”

There was good news with the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hakan Calhanoglu, but also bad, as Sandro Tonali was stretchered off and Brahim Diaz sustained an injury too.

“We don’t have any news yet, we’ll have to see, they both got nasty knocks. What does disappoint me is losing Leao for the next game, because I’ve never seen a player booked for simulation in midfield. I don’t think that was in any way fair or a real understanding of the situation,” continued Pioli.

“I really liked Rafael Leao tonight, as he is improving in his focus, his concentration, the way he was always in the game tonight. He’s still very young and is learning. He has certain characteristics, so isn’t your traditional centre-forward.

“I think Leao, aside from his potential, was signed at the time to play as a support striker. However, he’s now becoming a more complete player who can vary in different positions, so we are ready to reshuffle when needed.”

Ibrahimovic was not expected back today, but did play for the final five minutes plus stoppages.

“We knew that if he passed the final test tomorrow in training, he’d be ready for a small portion of the game. The muscular injury is behind him now, we will see on Wednesday what to do in the Coppa Italia. Zlatan is unique, we hope to have him in full shape as quickly as possible.”

Roma and Inter go head-to-head on Sunday for second place, so is Pioli cheering on the Giallorossi or would he prefer a draw?

“I will certainly watch Roma-Inter tomorrow, but not because of the table. I’ll watch because I am sure it’ll be a wonderful game of football between two very smart coaches and I love the sport.”