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Stefano Pioli highlights the importance of Milan’s match against Atalanta

SoccerNews in Serie A 24 Feb 2024

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Stefano Pioli believes the outcome of AC Milan’s home clash with Serie A rivals Atalanta could determine the trajectory of the rest of their season with the title not yet out of their reach and a chasing pack turning up the European heat.

The Rossoneri head into Sunday’s match 11 points behind city foes Inter Milan in the Scudetto race while fourth-placed Bologna and Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta are both in excellent form and pushing hard for Champions League football.

Defeat at San Siro and Milan could lose the initiative in that battle, especially considering the fact Atalanta – in fifth – have a game in hand and are riding a five-game winning streak.

Pioli said at Saturday morning’s press conference: “Tomorrow’s match is very important in terms of the league standings.

“Various teams below us continue to pick up points, and we want to get back to winning ways.

“It’ll be difficult, as we’ll be up against a side who are doing well, but we are also doing well. They’ve beaten us twice this season, so we’re preparing for the game with the aim of doing better.”

Milan celebrated reaching the Europa League last 16 this week with an aggregate victory over play-off opponents Rennes, and next up will be two legs against Slavia Prague in March.

This offers the Rossoneri further incentive to up their game and fight for honours on multiple fronts across the run-in.

“We progressed through our tie in the Europa League, and we’re in the competition to give it a go and fight to win it,” said Pioli. “Our destiny depends on ourselves, not on our opponents and the draw.

“In Europe, easy opponents don’t exist; Slavia Prague won their group ahead of Roma and are fighting to win their league domestically.”

Striker Luka Jovic is suspended but the boss hopes to have Pierre Kalulu back in the squad, with the French defender completing a full week of training following an injury lay-off.

England international Fikayo Tomori is “also doing better but slightly behind in the recovery process” and Pioli is optimistic that their returns will give Milan more bite in the backline as both players are “aggressive and fast and contribute well to our build-up play”.

Defender Isak Hien and Jose Luis Palomino are sidelined for Atalanta, who triumphed 3-2 in a wild December meeting with Milan before going to San Siro and knocking them out of the Coppa Italia last month.

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