(IN THE PHOTO: press conference at Milanello)
MILAN – On Saturday afternoon, the coach held a press conference at Milanello ahead of Milan-Udinese. He was joined by Riccardo Montolivo and Ignazio Abate.
Opening comments from Sinisa Mihajlovic: "Carlos Bacca is a key player for us. He is the team’s top-scorer and when a chance comes his way, he puts the ball in the back of the net. He is an important player and I hope he keeps his current run of form going. He needs to link up a bit better with his team-mates, but I don’t want him too far away from the penalty area, as he needs to play in between the two opposing centre-backs. I have always said that our fans are passionate and, quite rightly, demanding. It’s down to us with our performances to bring them back to the stadium. We would be delighted if we had even more fans present and cheering us on. But it’s down to us to lure them back on our side. Udinese will represent a tough test for the team. They play better away from home. But we want to end the week on a high and with a third win in a row. I am certain the team are improving in terms of confidence and self-belief. I also want the players to step-up their desire to win and to get better. Winning is great, but continuing to do so is even better. This enthusiasm we have is great providing that we’re also hungry and determined."
The coach commented on the last match and individuals: "I think we have improved. Palermo closed down the spaces, but we tried to find a way through. It’s important we have the cutting-edge when we’re in possession. We need to be patient in our build-up play, be tight at the back and break the deadlock. We will see whether Bonaventura will feature versus Udinese. He will train and then we will make a decision. Balotelli has improved slightly, but he is still some way off peak fitness. He is not ready to start a match yet, but like lots of others in the squad, he could be decisive coming off the bench. When he is fully fit, he is decisive but he can also play an important role not at 100% because he has the ability. It is all down to him. Honda has always trained well. When I didn’t pick him, it was because in that moment I was not satisfied enough with him. Now however he is playing well and he helps out the team. We have dropped a few points so far this season and we really couldn’t afford that. To make that step-up to the next level, you need to improve mentally and with the attitude. The lads were fantastic in the first-half against Palermo. In the second-half we controlled the match, perhaps a bit too much for my liking because we should have killed-off the contest, but we gave away nothing."
The coach wants the team to build on recent performances: "We always play to win and with an attacking mentality. We are an attacking side that plays and creates chances. I hope we do this against Udinese and we capitalise on the chances that come our way. If we repeat our recent displays, the result will come. Every player has to play his part and be ready when called upon. After the training session, we will decide on the line-up. If I do make changes, they will be minimal. Bertolacci is an important player, but he hasn’t been able to get a run of matches because of injuries. I consider him a first choice. If he plays, and maybe he will against Udinese, he will have his say. I was happy about the comments from Piersilvio Berlusconi, the feeling of respect is mutual. I am certain that the President rates me too seeing as he chose me as coach. There are always match incidents, but over the course of the season, the decisions for and against tend to even themselves out. Menez is back with us and he is another option but he is not match-fit. If Bonaventura doesn’t play, there are three options and one of these could be Boateng. Luiz Adriano is on the comeback trail, he is still feeling a bit of pain, but he has started to run again. He isn’t yet available for selection and we hope to have him back as soon as possible."
RICCARDO MONTOLIVO"We are ready to handle the pressure that comes with being at the top-end of the table. But it’s wrong to look too far ahead. We need to channel our energy into each match as it comes. You can always do better, even when you play well, and this has to be our objective. Both us and the fans live for magical nights like the one in the derby. It was perhaps the first time since the 2-0 against Barcelona. I feel this team is ready to bring the fans back to the stadium."
IGNAZIO ABATE"Honda is without a shadow of a doubt an intelligent player. He always works hard for the team. At the moment everyone is doing very well. But we know we still haven’t achieved anything. We are on the right track and we need to keep this going. The support of the fans helps you give something extra. We must take things one game at a time."