The coach is refusing to take cup rivals Alessandria lightly.
(IN THE PHOTO: press conference at Milanello)
MILAN – Sinisa Mihajlovic faced the press on Monday afternoon at Milanello ahead of the first-leg of the TIM Cup semi-finals against Alessandria.
Opening comments from the coach: “Tomorrow’s match is a key moment for our season. We have to and we are determined to go through to the final. Thinking it is going to be easy however is the easiest way to end up giving a poor account of ourselves. In the year 2000, Calais reached the final of the French Cup. The same feat occurred in 2012 with another team. Alessandria deserve to be shown respect and I am happy for their coach Gregucci. Our aim though is to qualify for the final of the competition and to try and lift the trophy. If you win silverware, a season can be considered a positive one. I am treating Alessandria like a Serie A team and I will select a competitive side for the match. We need to win tomorrow if we want to take a step towards the final. We have to play as if it were a one-off match. We need to make a strong start, just like we did at Empoli, and try and impose our game. We are the stronger side, but you don’t win matches on paper. We must adopt the right attitude, do our job well just like we have been doing lately. There will be a few changes to the team because not all players can perform at their best for 3 games in the space of a week. But it will be a strong side and an attacking one to play well and to win. Balotelli and Boateng need game-time. But they have to earn it. I still haven’t decided who will start the match. We will see after the final training session. Looking at the other teams’ results over the weekend, the draw with Empoli leaves me angry. Had we won, we would have the same points as Roma and we would be closer to Inter in the table. However, I have told the players that there is no need to get carried away. A side like ours, that took the lead twice, has to go on and win the match. More determination in attack and defence were needed to bring home the 3 points.”
The coach continued and commented on league matters too: “We have only lost twice in the past 16-17 matches. We could have collected more points, but we have been consistently picking up positive results. I am disappointed about dropping 5-6 points as we deserve them based on our performances. There are still 17 games to go in the league and there is time to make up ground. However, we are fully focused for the time being on the Alessandria game. There is serenity within the squad. We have never lost confidence and we are looking forwards. We can improve but that is to be expected. The team is united and has an identity. We are a tough side to beat. Bacca is a key player for us and he has almost always played this season. We will see whether he starts tomorrow. If I see anyone lower their guard versus Alessandria, they won’t play on Sunday in the derby. I don’t want any of my players to hold anything back. Luiz Adriano is focused. It was always going to be hard for him to play over the weekend after all his travelling lately but he will be called-up to the squad for the match with Alessandria.”
Final thoughts from the coach: “Chase for Europe? Perhaps the Coppa Italia is easier, but that isn’t necessarily the case. If you slip up in one game, you are out. In the league we can improve our position in the table. We want to qualify for Europe via both avenues: league and cup. We have 5 central defenders in the squad. Three are currently out, but we have tried De Jong in that position in training and he did well there. We will see. There is no point in buying players for the sake of it. We haven’t as yet made a decision. I think Mexes will be back available again in the coming days and then we will have 4 options for the middle of the defence. It’s a shame to have lost Ely through injury for several months. Alex? I am not a doctor or a magician. He won’t be available tomorrow. We hope to have him back for the derby. His knee hasn’t got worse, but perhaps he felt a bit of pain because of the tough pitch. He is still feeling some pain, but I think we will have him fit again for the derby.”
Joining the coach for the press conference were Abbiati and Abate. This is what the two men had to say:
“It’s an important game because a chance to win a trophy is at stake. Alessandria will give their absolute all and they will be in determined mood. Getting through to the final is one of our objectives for the season. There are many players in the squad who haven’t won anything in their careers and this is a good chance to do that. If we get a good result tomorrow, we will go into the derby with Inter with a different mentality. But let’s focus on Alessandria first and then think about the derby. With all due respect to Alessandria we’re Milan and we have to take a big step forwards tomorrow and win.”
“We have to take control of the match tomorrow. We must win, but that is easier said than done. Alessandria are a good side. They run hard and they have lots of strengths. We need to play with the right approach and do everything to make it through to the final. The Empoli match is already behind us and is consigned to the past. We now have a semi-final and we want to send a strong message and arrive in good form mentally and physically ahead of the derby.”