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Stefano Pioli ‘ambitious’ for AC Milan to reach latter stages of Europa League

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 14 Feb 2024

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AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli hopes his side can exorcise their Champions League disappointment in Thursday’s Europa League play-off against Rennes.

Milan face Ligue 1 side Rennes in the first leg at the San Siro Stadium after finishing third in their Champions League group.

The Rossoneri lost out on goal difference to second-placed Paris St Germain despite a 3-2 win at Newcastle in their final match.

Pioli told a press conference: “We go again from the disappointment in Newcastle and we’re focusing all of our energy on the Europa League.

“We know that you need to be at your very best in Europe and that’s what we want to do (on Thursday night).

“There are some good teams in this competition. We have to be ambitious, but we can’t look too far into the future. The tie will be decided in a week and this game is a huge one.”

Milan are currently third in the Serie A title race, one point behind Juventus and eight adrift of leaders Inter Milan.

Pioli’s side have dropped only two points in their last five league games and have lost only one of their previous 12 games in all competitions

“We need to look at both tournaments,” added Pioli, who hinted at making changes amid a heavy fixture schedule and after Sunday’s 1-0 home win against Napoli.

“I know where we want to finish in the league in terms of points and I know how far we want to go in Europe.

“I hope to play a lot from here until the end. All of the players will be involved because, for example, with five games in 15 days, it would be tough for a lot of them to play the full 90 in all of those.

“Making choices and excluding players is always difficult, but it’s also true that I know that I have players coming off the bench who can change a game.”

Netherlands midfielder Tijjani Reijnders is hoping to return to the starting line-up after missing out at the weekend through suspension.

Germany defender Malick Thiaw is back in contention after a long-term hamstring injury, while Nigeria forward Samuel Chukwueze (muscle strain) has targeted Sunday’s Serie A game at Monza for his return.

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