Struggling AC Milan have no choice but to face the challenge of Serie A leaders Juventus “head-on”, insists head coach Stefano Pioli.
The Rossoneri have barely improved since Pioli replaced Marco Giampaolo in mid-October, taking only four points from four games, with the solitary win of that run a poor 1-0 against lowly Spal.
A trip to reigning champions Juve would not be the preferred next fixture for a side in desperate need of a lift, but the calendar dictates they must visit Turin on Sunday night.
Pioli told acmilan.com: “The rankings say that we are far behind Juve, but all games start from 0-0. We will have to tackle them head-on – big challenges are also great opportunities.
“We have to be ready to fight and fight some more, never giving up. We’ll need a bigger performance than in all the games that have gone before, paying more attention and making fewer mistakes.
“I trust my players, they have to push when they’re out on the field because we are all about performances and results.
“We lack some conviction and confidence, but those come with good results.
“Juve are the complete team: they have quality and physicality, attack and defend well, but also have weak points as no side is perfect.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a phenomenon, a champion, there are so many ways in which he can hurt you.
“Tomorrow those who are around him will have to stop him or at least try to limit him.”
Defender Mateo Musacchio and winger Samu Castillejo are absent through injury, while Juve are missing veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini but optimistic that Ronaldo will be fit enough to feature.
Bianconeri boss Maurizio Sarri is wary of the wounded Milan animal and warned his players accordingly.
He told juventus.com: “Milan have not started the season well, but they are a good team. It will not be easy.
“In football there are cycles, and rebuilding to get back to a high level is not easy. Milan have many young players and are laying the foundations for a brighter future.”
On Ronaldo, who was substituted during the midweek Champions League victory at Lokomotiv Moscow, Sarri added: “Let’s see what he can do. He has a bit of pain in his knee, but it is nothing serious.”