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AC Milan

Pioli names six Lazio players as being threats and explains Milan’s stance of ‘meritocracy’

Stefano Pioli has confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss AC Milan’s Coppa Italia quarter-final against Lazio, but hinted that Fikayo Tomori and Ante Rebic could return.

The Rossoneri will be looking to crack the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia once again when they face Maurizio Sarri’s Biancocelesti side at San Siro tomorrow evening, and they will also be aiming to ride the momentum from Saturday’s derby victory against Inter on the same field.

Milan have not won a trophy since the SuperCoppa Italiana penalty shootout win over Juventus five years ago and many feel the Coppa Italia represents a big chance for Pioli to collect his first silverware with the club, though Wednesday’s game will be no easy task against a side who have pedigree in this competition.

Pioli was interviewed by SportMediaset on the eve of the cup game at San Siro, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.

The cup quarter-final is a very important game in its own right, but what is the feeling after the derby?

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“The feeling from the derby remains the satisfaction of having won an important match, three important points for our standing but aware that the path is still very long,” he said.

“Fifteen games and forty-five points available is a lot, we are at the same level as last year, there will be a long way to go. Now what matters is only tomorrow’s match, it’s a quarter-final in a competition in which all the great teams want to go all the way and we want to try.”

Is winning the Coppa Italia a concrete goal?

“The concrete objective is to try to eliminate Lazio tomorrow, and it will be a difficult obstacle because Lazio are very good, they have won a great match in Florence and have a formidable attacking department. Now concentrate on tomorrow’s match, then one step at a time.”

Olivier Giroud is the man of the moment having netted a match-winning brace in his first Derby della Madonnina…

“There are always detractors and criticisms, it is normal that this is the case. I think it is also right that this is the case, but what matters is the trust we have in our players, in our qualities, in our way of playing. Olivier is proving to be the player he was bought for, a valuable player on the pitch and a person of great depth. A strong player who is giving a great contribution to the team.”

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What makes you afraid in the Lazio team?

“They are trained very well, with players who have great quality. An offensive department made up of Milinkovic, Luis Alberto, Immobile, Zaccagni, Felipe Anderson and Pedro, I think it is of the highest level. We will have to play a very careful game, try to close all the spaces and remain very compact and have attacking solutions that can create problems for our opponents.”

Will you field the players you think are in the best condition at the moment?

“Absolutely yes, training this afternoon is important to understand the conditions, but the best possible training will certainly be on the field.”

Will we see Tomori again?

“Let’s see today, he did a good workout yesterday and he is definitely better. It is clear that the more training he manages to put in, the more his condition will grow. I think he can be available for tomorrow, we’ll see if from the start or the game in progress.”

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How’s Rebic doing?

“Yesterday he also trained, today we will see if he is available.”

And Ibrahimovic?

“Zlatan is a lion in a cage. His motivation, his ambition is to help the team on the pitch. He is doing everything to recover, obviously he won’t be in the match tomorrow, we’ll see the next ones.”

There have been several recent reports about the harmony between Pioli and the club…

“I think the club uses a method, a rule that I totally approve of, which is the rule of meritocracy. They make available to you all the best possible, gives you the opportunity to work well and then judges you: if you deserve it then they renew your contract. I think this applies both to me and to the players, it is an important aspect on which we must continue. You have to continually prove that you can be at Milan.”

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Would you like to stay for life?

“I’m happy, that’s for sure.”

Finally, on Mike Maignan’s recent heroics…

“Mike is a strong goalkeeper, he is showing it. We were all convinced of it, studying it well. He is a very determined boy, very ambitious and this means that every day he works to keep improving. He is definitely a player who is giving a lot and he must continue.”

READ MORE: Brahim Diaz turns the derby – now he must convince Milan in view of the summer

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