Pioli: ‘We are sorry for Kjaer, we could have to intervene on the market’

by | Dec 3, 2021 16:56

Milan coach Stefano Pioli wants to ‘give continuity’ to the performances when Salernitana arrive at San Siro tomorrow and revealed he might look for a new defender in January due to Simon Kjaer’s injury.

The Rossoneri are one point behind Napoli in Serie A after the midweek games, but lost Kjaer to a serious knee injury in the process.

Pioli prepares his team to play another ‘important’ match against Salernitana on Saturday and stressed the players are getting ‘used to’ the busy schedule.

Milan have five games left until the winter break, including decisive appointments with Liverpool and Napoli, but Pioli is only focused on the match against bottom-placed Salernitana for now.

“We are used to this tight programme, we have our timing,” Pioli said. “Times are always short, but we studied our opponents well, to recover energy and prepare well for this match.”

Simon Kjaer suffered a serious knee injury in the match against Genoa and Pioli admitted the Rossoneri have lost a key player for the next few months.

“We know the qualities of the player and the depth of the person,” Pioli said. “His presence in the team is very important due to his charisma, personality and being able to say things at the right time.

“We are very close to Simon, we are worried for him, but also aware that everything will be fine and that he will overcome these difficulties because he’s a strong person.”

Milan forced to change transfer strategy after Kjaer knee injury

Pioli was asked about the growth path of Portugeuse winger Rafael Leao and Italian striker Pietro Pellegri in recent weeks.

Pioli said Pellegri is available for the match against Salernitana but has not decided who will start up front against the newly promoted side.

“Leao is on the right path, he has the will, but he must insist on having more presence and malice in the air, playing with strength and conviction with his qualities,” he said.

“Pellegri is fine, he’s available, as well as [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic. We will see what choices we will make.”

The coach wants to see more of the same against the Granata and praised the opponents work rate off the ball.

“Tomorrow’s match is important to give continuity,” he said. “We have another opportunity to demonstrate that we are a strong team.

“The opponents are tough, very annoying in the non-possession phase, they come at you with aggression and conviction. It’s a game where we want to do well.”

Pioli was asked if he has changed his strategy on the upcoming transfer market due to Kjaer’s injury and replied he could need a new defender to replace the Denmark international.

“If a long-term injury is confirmed, it’s clear that I believe that an intervention will be needed,” the coach continued. “But we will only do it to try to improve the team.

“It’s worth changing to improve the team. The club, if necessary, will be ready.”

Pioli stressed the Rossoneri must keep up their ‘intensity’ and believes a good ‘collective’ performance is needed to get the most out of the individual qualities in the squad.

“There are different teams: we must always be going at 1,000 per hour. It’s our way of playing and we like it,” he said. “It requires a lot of energy and a lot of mental intensity, which makes us go beyond our limits and overcome the difficulties in the matches.

“For us to play well, we must go fast, managing the ball quickly. When we can’t, we rely on individual games and Sunday’s are not always the best. It’s the collective that must support the individual player.

“They are all starters. The decisions are made by me, but then the players make them with their performances. The hierarchies are momentary and are due to the performances and the conditions.”

Pioli started his career as a head-coach at Salernitana in 2003-04, before he moved to Modena after one season in Salerno.

“I have a wonderful memory of Salerno, a warm and passionate city,” he said. “It’s a beautiful environment, but tomorrow they will be rivals and we will try to beat them.”

Even if the coach revealed the Rossoneri are now used to the tough schedule, he believes the players are working overtime.

“You play too much, it’s evident. The health of the players is strongly at risk, and it applies to everyone,” Pioli added. “When it comes to rotating, it’s not rotating.

“For me it doesn’t exist, for me they are all starters. It becomes inevitable. It’s necessary to let the players breathe, physically and mentally.

“It’s difficult to understand how to fix the calendar.”

Pioli was asked if this December is the most delicate month since his arrival in Via Aldo Rossi, but the coach stressed all the games in Serie A are difficult.

“I went through the most difficult months, especially at the beginning,” he said. “Then if you coach at Milan, all the months are difficult. But it’s right because we have raised the level and that’s what we wanted.

“But then, who would have thought we would lose to Fiorentina and Sassuolo, with all due respect for them. All matches are difficult.”

Pioli then went on to praise the French full-back Pierre Kalulu and pointed out that the versatility of the 21-year-old is very helpful.

“He has personality, he has to improve a lot because he’s still young,” Pioli said. “His luggage is not yet so full of notions.

“He has to understand some situations on the pitch. The fact that he can play well in two roles helps us a lot.”

Serie A Highlights: Genoa 0-3 Milan

Junior Messias arrived at Milan on deadline day but struggled with injury problems. He has since returned to action and has scored three goals in five competitive games, including the winner against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

He replaced Alexis Saelemaekers at right in the attacking trident against Genoa last time and scored a brace when the Rossoneri picked up a 3-0 win in Liguria.

“They have different characteristics,” Pioli replied when asked about the difference between Saelemaekers and Messias.

“Both can play well between the lines, but the important this is to continue working with this availability. In addition to the two pure forwards, the others must be there.”

Brahim Diaz provided an assist in the 3-0 win over Genoa but has not been at his best form since returning from coronavirus at the end of October.

“When a player is healthy, it’s better that he plays,” Pioli said. “He has to find more precision and quality.

“He has the qualities to play the through ball, he has to be very dangerous. That’s where we can afford to make mistakes and it’s in those plays that we have to force. If we do the right thing, we solve the matches.”

Pioli confirmed Ismael Bennacer has recovered and trained with the team and revealed Davide Calabria, Ante Rebic and Olivier Giroud are doing better.

“We have recovered Bennacer,” the coach continued. “He trained with the team today. The one who is further ahead is [Samu] Castillejo, while Calabria, Rebic and Giroud are doing better.”



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