Sunday, January 16, 2022

´Championships are not won in December´ – Pioli not concerned by in-form Inter

SoccerNews in Serie A 18 Dec 2021

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Stefano Pioli declared that league titles “are not won in December” but challenged Milan to raise their game when they face Napoli on Sunday.

Inter moved four points clear of the Rossoneri at the top of Serie A by hammering Salernitana 5-0 on Friday.

The champions have soared to the summit with six consecutive victories, while Milan dropped to second after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Udinese, after crashing out of the Champions League with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

Pioli says it is too early for talk of Inter running away with it, highlighting that Milan topped the table for much of last season before falling short.

The Milan head coach said in a press conference on Saturday: “I don’t think we can talk about an escape, I think Inter are demonstrating the qualities they had already shown.

“Championships are not won in December. We were in the lead for a long time last year and we know how it ended. We have to improve ourselves.

“The first year we had 66 points starting from a difficult position. The second year 79 points.. This year’s goal is to do better, especially in the second round [of fixtures].”

He added: “We are having a very good first round, there are still two games to go. I would like to surpass last year’s 43 [before the break].

“Tomorrow’s opponents have great qualities and an excellent coach, we certainly need to raise the level of performance.

“We are not racing against anyone, but only with ourselves. The last two performances weren’t optimal, we must try again to bring our qualities into play with strength and conviction.”

Milan have only won one of their last 13 Serie A games against Napoli, but at least it came recently – a 3-1 success in November 2020. Over that period they have had five draws and suffered seven defeats.

Neither team can point to particularly strong recent form, despite both sitting in the top four going into the San Siro game. After setting an electric pace in the early weeks, Milan and Napoli have been steadily reeled in.

Since the beginning of November, Milan have picked up eight points from six games and Napoli have managed only five, ranking them 10th and 16th respectively in Serie A across this period.

Milan’s forwards may be interested in the fact Napoli have faced 28 shots on target in their last five league matches (5.6 on average per match), whereas they had faced 11 in total in their previous five (2.2 on average per game).

Pioli will check on Theo Hernandez for the clash with fourth-placed Napoli as the France left-back has been suffering with illness.

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