Stefano Pioli explains why he played Borussia Dortmund stadium noises during Milan’s training session and is confident there will be ‘no fear’ in this Champions League trip.
It kicks off at the Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT).
The Rossoneri are already feeling the pressure after a 0-0 home draw with Newcastle United, which on paper should’ve been the easiest fixture of the group.
As for Borussia Dortmund, they began their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain, but are also unbeaten on home turf in this tournament for two years.
“It is not decisive because there are another four games and 12 points up for grabs. It is very important, because to get through this group we are going to need a lot of points,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.
“We were unable to win the opening match, even after a very good performance, so we have another opportunity tomorrow in a difficult trip. We have our qualities, our mentality and style up against a team that is intense, energetic and is unbeaten at home in the Champions League for two years, but we want to do well.”
Milan were only able to get that 0-0 draw with Newcastle despite dozens of shots on goal, so cannot afford to be that wasteful again.
“The idea is to be dangerous, to control games and then at the right moment make it stick. It is difficult to create as many chances as we did against Newcastle and not score, so we need to be clinical and efficient upfront against Borussia Dortmund, because there won’t be as many opportunities.”
The Signal Iduna Park is legendary for its atmosphere and the Yellow Wall of fans, so Pioli even went so far as to play recorded sounds from previous games during his team’s training session.
“It will be wonderful, there is no fear. Many of us experienced this two years ago at Anfield Road and it was for many of us the Champions League debut against Liverpool, so it was natural to be a little shaken up and intimidated. That will not be the case tomorrow, we can only draw energy, adrenaline and motivation from the atmosphere,” assured the coach.
“We know that we are playing in a special atmosphere, so we also did it to ensure the players can communicate with each other in this noise. I want to also be sure that I can communicate with the players from the touchline, I still don’t know if I’ll be able to.”
There is far more strength in depth now for the Rossoneri, who make the journey without Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Rade Krunic, Ismael Bennacer, Pierre Kalulu and Mattia Caldara.
“We are convinced that what we are doing is the right path, knowing we must also go through these tough tests to keep raising the bar. It would be far better if I had everyone in the squad available, but I am sure whoever will play is going to give their best.”
Pioli was asked if the Champions League can be the tournament for Rafael Leao to truly shine.
“I think every game must be one for Leao and every game must be one for Milan. We must all work together, collaborate, put ourselves at the disposal of the team and then after that we put ourselves at the disposal of the players with the most creativity and who can take men on.”
Milan suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat to rivals Inter last month, yet are still joint top of the Serie A table and seemed to recover from that blow remarkably quickly. How did they keep so balanced?
“It comes from the belief we have in our work, our ideas and the faith I have in my players. We’ve been working together for a while now and one bad game cannot interrupt the journey. The fact that the club supports us can also only help to recover from difficult moments, there will be others in future.
“We are not the best team in the world, we are not the worst either, we are a good team who can play good football and it is just the beginning. Our objective is to be competitive, to win every game, because we must take it one game at a time and then at the end of the season we’ll see where we are.”