Stefano Pioli acknowledges Atalanta are a bogey team for Milan and explains his decision to start Soualiho Meite, while celebrating the Winter Champions crown.
It was a mixed day for the Rossoneri, as while they suffered their heaviest defeat of the season, falling 3-0 at home to Atalanta, they were also crowned Winter Champions for the first time in a decade.
That’s because Inter were held 0-0 by Udinese and the Diavolo saw their lead at the top cut to two points.
“I think Atalanta are the only team we have been unable to beat. So clearly they make life difficult for us,” confessed Pioli on Sky Sport Italia.
“We had started well, put lots of players into attack. It’s disappointing the way we conceded the opener on a set play, then the second goal closed the game. We had time, but were unable to find a way back into the match.
“We could’ve done more, we knew that we had to defend more carefully and the marking was also not the best, but we could have intercepted the cross earlier too.
“Atalanta did better than us this evening, a defeat can happen against a strong team. It’s disappointing, the second goal, as we just lost belief after that.
“It’s a very competitive league, we know it’s difficult, but we are up there at the top and we want to have our say.”
Pioli surprised by starting ex-Torino midfielder Meite from the start in the trequartista role behind the striker, replacing him with Brahim Diaz at the break.
“Atalanta are a very physical side and I felt that we needed another midfielder who could counter that element in that area of the pitch. I knew Brahim Diaz was on the bench and could come on to provide different characteristics in that role.”
Milan have lost only two Serie A games this season, both at San Siro, to Juventus and Atalanta.
“I think defeats to Juventus and Atalanta are nothing to be ashamed of. There are very high levels everywhere, so Atalanta were physically superior, more intense, winning all the duels and the second balls too.
“It’s a tight thing when you reach this level. We will analyse the defeat, try to see where we can improve and focus on the next match.”
Despite this result, Milan are still two points clear at the top of the table and crowned Winter Champions. In the last 26 seasons, the Winter Champions went on to take the Scudetto 19 times.
“If it brings good luck, then it is welcome! We know what we can do, we know where we need to improve and what we are capable of.”