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Pirlo: 'Conte and Ibrahimovic demons'

Andrea Pirlo gives his predictions for the Milan Derby and sees Antonio Conte and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having key roles. “They can’t stand losing, they become demons.”

The now retired midfielder is in a unique position to discuss this match, as he played for both San Siro clubs, was teammates with Ibrahimovic at Milan and worked under Conte at Juventus.

“There’s a 19-point gap, but the derby is a game unto itself and that difference is wiped out,” Pirlo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Inter are in better shape, but both know this is a match that can change the season, as it doesn’t just bring points, but also self-esteem.”

This is the first Milan Derby since Ibrahimovic returned to the Rossoneri jersey.

“Ibra is fundamental, as he raises the level of concentration in the group. He is a demanding perfectionist in every respect and wants everyone else to be the same. I know that from experience!

“His teammates will feel enormous focus in every training session with him, as he really makes you knuckle down. It’s true that he pins you to the wall, shouts, gets furious. I’ve known very few people like him.

“Plus he still makes the difference on the pitch, although not quite as much as he used to. Since the injury he had at Manchester United, things aren’t as effective, but with age you realise that rather than running, you should simply be in the right position.

“The future depends on what he wants to do. I retired at his age, 38, because I had pain in my knee and would wake up in the morning asking myself why I needed to continue struggling through training sessions.”

Pirlo worked with Conte at Juventus, so was “not at all surprised” to see his Inter flying so high already.

“They’ll fight for the Scudetto to the end. Conte forces you to give your best at all times, more than you even thought you had. He is obsessed with victory, so when he loses, he becomes a demon. You daren’t speak to him.

“Conte is the best coach I ever worked with, every day he showed us 40-50 minute video sessions. It’s because of him that I started considering the idea of becoming a coach myself.

“It is above all Conte who has reduced the gap with Juve, but the club also spent money wisely to bring in players suited to his ideas. Inter will try to the end, but Juventus remain the favourites because they have quality in every individual.

“Christian Eriksen raises the Inter level, but he needs time to settle, because Serie A is very different to the Premier League.

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