After the weekend’s humiliation in the local derby, Stefano Pioli stated on Monday that AC Milan’s focus is now on their Champions League opening against Newcastle United.
The Serie A leaders Inter Milan crushed the seven-time European champions 5-1 on Saturday. The crushing loss wiped out any positive energy generated by the new-look team’s three consecutive victories before to the international break.
It was Inter’s sixth loss in as many Milan derbies in 2023, with the team winning 12-1 overall in those encounters, which also included the Champions League semifinal from the previous year.
“We were very optimistic and full of faith for the derby, but it didn’t work out, so there’s no need to hide it,” Pioli said to reporters.
“We have the Champions League, which is wonderful since it’s the only chance to switch, but it was a major letdown.
“These Derby losses are painful… I would do everything to make them different, but sadly, things turned out the way they did.”
Milan has been placed in a difficult Group F that also includes French champions Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund. A strong showing at home against Newcastle, who is supported by Saudi Arabia, would be the ideal way to bounce back from Saturday’s setback.
This set of players will be able to overcome a very tough derby, I believe I have a solid squad,” Pioli said.
“I owe the fans a debt because they stuck with us last year when we were having a hard time and playing really poorly.”
One of two major changes this summer will be the return of Sandro Tonali to the San Siro sooner than anticipated after he was sold to Newcastle in July. The other major change will be the departure of club legend Paolo Maldini as technical director.
Italian midfielder Tonali, a lifelong Milan supporter, was a vital member of the squad that won the league championship for the first time in eleven years in 2022.
It’s going to be intense. Sandro is a fantastic player who helped us get to where we are now, according to Pioli.
His return to the San Siro will be poignant for him since we developed and triumphed together. We hope for the best for him in the next game.”
After stopping a run of three consecutive Premier League losses with a 1-0 victory against Brentford, Newcastle is heading into its first Champions League encounter in twenty years.
After recuperating from a thigh injury that kept him out of Italy’s last two Euro 2024 qualifiers, Tonali is expected to play on Tuesday. He acknowledged that leaving Milan was not easy.
“Until I play at the San Siro, I won’t know what it means to have come back,” the 23-year-old said. “I will obviously have strong feelings.”
“The summer wasn’t easy… I’ll have to do my best to control my emotions since Milan is the team I cheer for and the one who offered me the opportunity to fulfill a dream.”