Milan coach Stefano Pioli said the Rososneri ‘deservedly won’ against Cagliari and confirmed he brought Simon Kjaer off to not risk anything.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s brace secured a 2-0 win over the Casteddu in Sardinia, when Alexis Saelemaekers was sent off for two bookable offences and Alessio Romagnoli picked up his fifth yellow to further the concerns ahead of Atalanta.
But Pioli focused on the positives, with Milan being crowned winter champions for the first time since 2011, as they sit three points above Inter with one more game in the first half of the season.
“We think about giving our best every match, the season has been like this,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia after the match. “I always ask my players for attention, we must all be ready, we were.
“We faced a test of strength, we deservedly won.
“I say thank you to the fans for their support, the team will do everything to give our best, we must continue to think that every match will be the most important.
“On Saturday we will have a very important game against Atalanta, then in April we will see the ranking.”
Mario Mandzukic is on his way and ready to wear No9, but Pioli showed the competition by claiming Ibrahimovic is ready to ‘keep him at bay’.
“Ibra said he’ll take care of keeping him at bay,” Pioli added. “I’m happy, the club is ambitious, they want Milan back on top. Mandzukic’s arrival goes into this situation.
“Given the many commitments and critical issues of this season, we need many players.
“I also tell them that the quantity of minutes is not important, but the quality.
“When the club proposed it to me, I immediately said yes, I spoke to him, he’s very motivated, he’s a winner.”
Kalulu replaced Simon Kjaer at half-time and Pioli was happy with the youngsters performance, but reassured fans the Dane was not hurt.
“I’m very happy and satisfied [with Kalulu]. He plays with personality and strength, he’s another player who can give us satisfaction.
“He [Kjaer] was not hurt, he has this problem that limits him a bit, better not risk more headaches. The more quality players we are, the more we will be able to field competitive teams.”
Milan are top of the standings after 19 games, regardless of the match against Atalanta, and Pioli vowed to continue fighting for the top spots.
“Seven teams are very strong, all of them will fight until the end to win the Scudetto and get to the Champions League,” he added.
“We will fight to get into the top four, it’s a path that must give us confidence, then the quality has proved us right."