Milan coach Stefano Pioli told Cagliari that the Rossoneri’ deservedly won ‘and stated that he had taken Simon Kjaer off to not lose anything. The brace of Zlatan Ibrahimovic secured a 2-0 victory over Sardinia’s Casteddu when Alexis Saelemaekers was sent off for two bookable offenses and Alessio Romagnoli picked up his fifth yellow to further Atalanta’s concerns.
But, with Milan being crowned winter champions for the first time since 2011, Pioli concentrated on the better, as they sit three points above Inter with one more game in the first half of the season.
“We’re thinking of giving each match our best, the season has been like this,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia after the game.
“I always ask for attention from my players, we all have to be ready, we’ve been. We were faced with a test of courage, and we deservedly prevailed.
I say thanks to the fans for their help, the team is going to do whatever we can to give our best, and we have to keep thinking that every match is going to be the most important. We will have a very important game against Atalanta on Saturday, then we will see the rankings in April.”
Mario Mandzukic is on his way and ready to wear No9, but by saying Ibrahimovic is ready to ‘hold him at bay,’ Pioli illustrated the rivalry.
Pioli said, “Ibra said he would take care to keep him at bay. I’m pleased, they want Milan back on top, the club is ambitious. The arrival of Mandzukic goes into that scenario. We need many players, given the many commitments and crucial issues of this season. I also tell them that it is not the number of minutes that counts, but the consistency. When it was suggested to me by the club, I immediately said yes, I spoke to him, he was very motivated, he was a winner.”
At half-time, Kalulu replaced Simon Kjaer and Pioli was satisfied with the success of the young people but told fans the Dane was not hurt.
“With Kalulu, I am very happy and fulfilled. He plays with power and personality, and he’s another player who can please us. He [Kjaer] wasn’t injured, he has a problem that limits him a little, so it’s best not to risk more headaches. The more quality players we are, the more competitive teams we will be able to field.
After 19 matches, Milan is top of the standings, regardless of the match against Atalanta, and Pioli vowed to continue battling for the top spots.
He added, “Seven teams are really good, all battling until the end to win the Scudetto and get to the Champions League. We’re going to struggle to be in the top four, it’s a path that has to give us confidence, and then the quality has proven us right.”