Monday, January 30, 2023

Pioli accepts Milan criticism as champions bid to hit back in Scudetto race

SoccerNews in Serie A 13 Jan 2023

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Stefano Pioli understands the criticism Milan have received following a pair of demoralising results, but he insists the Scudetto race remains alive ahead of Saturday’s trip to Lecce.

Milan have endured a frustrating week, throwing away a two-goal lead in a dramatic Serie A draw with Roma on Sunday before crashing out of the Coppa Italia against 10-man Torino three days later.

The Serie A champions are seven points adrift of leaders Napoli ahead of Saturday’s clash with a Lecce side unbeaten in their last five league games, but Pioli is backing his team to recover.

“It’s normal that there is a more critical eye towards us because we won the Scudetto with excellent football,” Pioli said. “When that fails, the finger is pointed more, but that’s what we want.

“Criticism affects us because we didn’t bring home the results we were supposed to bring home.

“The season is long, the championship won’t end tonight either. Let’s not forget how we won the Scudetto.”

Although Milan have been hamstrung by a lengthy injury list featuring the likes of Mike Maignan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Rossoneri will not look to strengthen in this month’s transfer window as Pioli is content with his options.

“I remain convinced that our only problem is not having our complete squad in every department,” Pioli said. “There is no need to intervene.”

However, the Milan coach is hopeful of some important business being done by the club in the near future, with the Scudetto holders reportedly working on contract renewals for Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao after Ismael Bennacer penned a new long-term deal on Thursday.

“I’m delighted for Isma. It’s deserved for his will and determination,” Pioli added. “Isma is very ambitious, with the humility of someone who knows he still has to improve.

“I’m also very happy for the club, we are confirming a group of players that have become mature, it’s important.”

Asked specifically about the club’s talks with Leao and Giroud, Pioli replied: “I hope more good news arrives. I hope so.”

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