(IN THE PHOTO: press conference at Milanello)
MILANELLO – On Saturday morning, Sinisa Mihajlovic held a press conference at Milanello in which he looked ahead to the round 29 Serie A match with Chievo.Opening comments from the coach: "I am disappointed that after a defeat, the usual rumours over the Milan job have started again. Going from one extreme to another is never healthy. I am calm however and so is the team. We are looking ahead and we are focused on the game with Chievo. We have to try and bring home the win. Our season isn’t over after the loss at Sassuolo. There are still 10 games to go and we are aiming to collect as many points as possible. Sixth place isn’t good enough for us and this is our mentality. We have one more training session before the match with Chievo and I am still to decide how we will line-up tomorrow. However, I will only select who is 100%. Those who aren’t fully fit will start from the bench. Everyone needs to be at their best because our playing style requires the team to press high-up the pitch and put in a lot of effort when we are defending. If we have players who aren’t fully-fit, this puts more pressure on the others. Those that come on during the match will have to try and leave their mark. I have a good relationship with the President. We spoke about football yesterday and about the last match with Sassuolo. It was a relaxed meeting. I want to clarify that I have another year on my contract and I want to honour it, but this depends on the job I do and the results. At the end of the season, a decision will be made. I said the same thing last week. I know how things work in football and I am feeling calm."Mihajlovic continued and also analysed the last game: "I have never had any problems with my players. We have always had a relationship built on mutual respect and loyalty. We will try and collect as many points as possible and assess the situation come the end of the season. Balotelli’s fitness levels are to be expected, but he isn’t ready yet from a psychological standpoint. He has been training for two months and physically he is fine, but he has to improve with the mental aspect. We dominated versus Sassuolo in the opening 25 minutes, but after we conceded, we weren’t the Milan side that I wanted and we lost our way. Over the past 2 months, we have shown ourselves to be a side that always fights until the end and that is always in the match. This wasn’t the case however versus Sassuolo. One of the reasons was because we were missing two players, Montolivo and Abate, and we missed the character they bring. We analysed the match afterwards, not everyone was at 100% and when you play against teams that run hard, you can lose, but we cannot repeat the same mistakes. We have played this season with a 4-3-3 formation in a few matches and they didn’t go badly. The formation is important, but up until a certain point. It is the attitude that makes the difference. Juventus despite everything they have won over the past years play with a great approach and spirit, and it is the reason why they are a grade above the others in Italy. Every player has to work hard and use his skills for the good of the team. Versus Sassuolo, Balotelli, like Menez, did what I wanted once but not for the following five occasions. Menez perhaps because he isn’t in peak shape, Mario maybe because he loses a bit of concentration and we cannot afford for this to happen. We all want to help Mario. He has to be more present when he plays and when he is asked to do certain things. But this applies to everyone and not just him."Closing comments from the coach: "I have made mistakes, but the key thing is that my ideas and choices have always been for the good of the team. I look at the week’s training sessions and then I choose the team based on the players that give us the best chance of winning the game. I have always been fair. The most important thing is to choose well and make as few mistakes as possible. Our centre backs are in good form. I chose Alex and Zapata versus Sassuolo because their forwards are fast. Tomorrow we will see. Bertolacci has been unlucky because he has always picked up an injury during his best run of form. As soon as he hits top form, he sustains an injury. He is an important player and does well in both attack and defence. He has also played in front of the defence in his career. We also have Locatelli who is surprising me. Perhaps he isn’t ready yet for the intensity of Serie A, but for his intelligence, he will be the future of Milan and maybe in a few matches time he will be ready. He is getting used to the rhythm and he is an important option. From a physical standpoint, the team doesn’t change from one week to the next, from the data we have available from the game with Sassuolo we ran the same amount as in other games. There are those that run a lot, such as the wing-backs and players like Bonaventura and Honda. Playing regularly, it’s only normal that they lose a bit of sharpness. I don’t know if we deserve more or less based on our efforts. The results this year however are better than previous years. Maldini has analysed the situation well. Milan have improved compared to recent seasons. There is still room for improvement, but there have been changes with the team and the results."Joining the coach in the press conference were Abate and Poli. These were their thoughts:IGNAZIO ABATE"We have players in this team that have a big character and they played last week versus Sassuolo. We needed to be more clinical in the opening exchanges, but the season doesn’t end at Sassuolo. We have trained with real determination this week and we are aiming for all 3 points tomorrow. We want to chase down the sides ahead of us in the table. We need to win tomorrow at all costs."ANDREA POLI"I am disappointed to have played little, but I have always tried to analyse the situation from the outside. I have always tried to be positive. We would all like to play. I have always respected the coach’s choices and I will always do that. I now feel stronger because I am calmer and more patient. Being on the sidelines has also done me some good. I have always wanted to play and I have always trained at 100%. I feel my character is now stronger. I have always promised myself to help the team and give my best whether it be 5 minutes or the entire match. This is the mentality I have always had this season. If we want to achieve something special, this can never go missing."