Pioli Dishes on Successful Derby, Maignan and Ibrahimovic

Stefano Pioli complimented his team for the Derby comeback: “We never stopped believing. The game was more balanced than people think. Episodes are often key in these clashes.”

The coach dismissed the criticism against the referee in an interview with Radio Anch’Io Lo Sport: “I am in favor of this English-like officiating style. The players have to adapt to it. Those small fouls are never sanctioned in Europe. Football is a physical sport, so shoulder-to-shoulder tackles are part of the game.”

Pioli heaped praise on Mike Maignan for his Derby performance: “I am not surprised by him. We first noticed him in the Europa League matches against Lille. We started following him, and we were aware of his abilities. He is a strong goalkeeper that already won a title as an underdog. He is a high-caliber player.”

The coach looked ahead: “We have to prove to be a mature team and build on this enthusiasm. Every match is difficult in Italy, especially in the second half of the season. Objectives become clearer, and the pressure rises. We will face a healthy Sampdoria Sunday. We will square off against Lazio in Coppa Italia beforehand, one of the clubs with the most quality in Italy.”

Pioli addressed the choice of deploying Frack Kessié as a no.10 in the Derby: “We wanted to limit Marcelo Brozovic. He did fine defensively, then Brahim Diaz subbed in very well. Kessié is a great professional and has to stay the course. Then we will see what happens with his contract at the end of the season.”

The gaffer weighed in on Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “He is doing everything he can to recover from injury. He remains a key player for us and will never be a burden. The rest of the campaign will impact his future.”