MILAN, Italy (Reuters) – AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli has called on his side to turn their impressive Champions League performances into results as the seven-time European Cup winners head into Wednesday’s trip to Atletico Madrid needing to win at all costs.
Competing in their first Champions League competition since 2013-14, Milan sit bottom of Group B with one point from four matches, four points behind second-placed Porto, who travel to already-qualified leaders Liverpool on Wednesday.
Milan have put in some notable displays – going toe-to-toe with Liverpool at Anfield before losing 3-2, while two late goals earned Atletico a 2-1 win at San Siro – but Pioli knows they need results to qualify for the knockout stages.
“We are hardened for this, built to be competitive,” he told a news conference on Tuesday. “For many players it’s the first time in the Champions League. We’ve found opponents of the highest level, but we’ve shown we are not too far from them.
“We’re aware that we’ve always lacked a little something when it mattered most. We need to know for tomorrow night that we need to perform with quality and attention in the two penalty areas, otherwise the performance is worthless.
“My task in preparing the team for tomorrow is quite simple: it is the last chance to stay in the Champions League.”
Milan have started the Serie A season in fine form, going unbeaten in their opening 12 games.
They did suffer their first league defeat of the campaign in a 4-3 thriller nL1N2SB0GT at Fiorentina on Saturday but Pioli does not believe that will have a big effect on his team.
“We lost in Florence because in the two penalty areas we weren’t as precise as in the past,” he added.
“We had less concentration and quality than usual. It’s not a question of approach, we have played better than other games.
“Unfortunately we didn’t score, but this is football.”
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)