Stefano Pioli insisted that “no one is perfect and invincible” as Milan prepare to beat Napoli in the All-Italian Champions League quarter-final.
AC Milan and Napoli will meet for the first time in European competition on April 12 in the first leg at the San Siro. Luciano Spalletti’s team will lead Serie A and UEFA’s top club competition.
The Parthenopei are 19 points behind at Italy’s top summit and are seen by many as a potential contender for the European crown.
But Milan have only lost one of their nine all-Italian matches in Europe (W4 D4), and Pioli sees no reason why the Rossoneri can’t dream of getting past an in-form Spalletti side.
The Milan coach said: “Honestly, I would prefer not to face the Italian team. In the Champions League it is better to play against a foreign club. Napoli are very strong, but we want to play for them.
“They have shown great consistency, strength and quality, they have all the characteristics of a great team, but no one is perfect or invincible.”
Real Madrid vs Chelsea
Benfica vs Inter
Manchester City vs Bayern
Milan vs Naples
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 17, 2023
Pioli’s team have not been in the last eight of the Champions League since the 2011/12 season, when they were eliminated by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Milan last passed this stage in the 2006-07 season on their way to winning the trophy, but a victory over Napoli will prove to be an incredibly difficult task.
Napoli have won each of their last three away matches against the Rossoneri, their best run against them, although they have not won any of their last five trips to Milan in cup competitions.
Pioli wants to continue Milan’s history in the Champions League but says the Rossoneri can’t take their eyes off the battle for the top four in Serie A, just one point ahead of Roma.
“It’s part of the history of this club and the path it has always followed,” he added. “We are starting to write our history, Milan’s path in the Champions League is different from ours.
“When you go to the San Siro to play in the Champions League, it’s something exciting and spectacular that everyone participates in.
“We are very busy, but we are also focused on the league. For this season to be positive, we have to play in the Champions League next year. We must be careful.”
Ahead of a mouth-watering European clash, Milan will visit Napoli in Serie A on Sunday, while the Rossoneri Scudetto looks set to head to Naples soon.
Pioli’s team failed to repeat their exploits in last year’s league season, though the Italian suggested it would always be difficult for the young AC Milan team to defend their title.
“I don’t think there are many teams in Europe that will immediately win the second league,” he continued. “We won with a very young team thanks to a project and a club journey that we are proud of.
“We are one of the few clubs with a sustainable project; only a few teams manage to win and be competitive in Europe.
“It’s a leap that we haven’t been able to make yet, but this year also gives us the opportunity to understand great things, to improve and become the strongest club.”