Sport Pioli not surprised by unbeaten run as Milan look to match club record
Players to watch as PSL season kicks off with MTN8
With the new Premier Soccer League season getting underway with the MTN8 quarterfinals over the weekend, FOurFourTwoZA writer DEAN WORKMAN has picked out the players to watch out for as the action begins. Defending champions SuperSport United take on the new boys in the league Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila on Saturday afternoon, while later on in the day Orlando Pirates will do battle with Cape Town City.Kaizer Chiefs kick off the action on Sunday as they take on Maritzburg United and then the treble winners from last season Mamelodi Sundowns face the team they beat in last seasons Nedbank Cup final, Bloemfontein Celtic.
Stefano Pioli is not surprised by Milan's incredible run of form as his side look to match a club record when they travel to Udinese on Sunday.
The Rossoneri are unbeaten since resuming action in June following the coronavirus-enforced break, including winning four of their opening five Serie A matches this campaign.
Only in 1995-96 and 2003-04, under Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti respectively, have Milan won five of their opening six matches since it became three points for a win in the competition.
However, the 18-time Italian champions dropped points for the first time in the 3-3 draw with Roma on Monday and Pioli is wary about Sunday's opponents Udinese, even though they are in the bottom three.
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"I am not surprised, no, because I have always had so much faith in my players," Pioli said when asked about the impressive run at Saturday's pre-match news conference. "I always hoped for this type of growth.
"We will encounter difficulties down the line and tomorrow will be full of possible pitfalls against a tough opponent. There is a lot of attention for tomorrow's match."
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The most recent of Milan's Scudetto successes came in 2011 but, after a fine start, Pioli is not ruling out a title challenge this season.
"My players are convinced that they are strong enough. Tomorrow will be another opportunity to prove it. Words are only good if proven by facts,” he said.
AC Milan defender Duarte returns to training ahead of Celtic clash
AC Milan have confirmed that central defender Leo Duarte has returned to training ahead of the Europa League opener with Celtic on Thursday. The 24-year-old has only featured in one Serie A fixture this season and was absent from AC Milan’s squad on the weekend as thy defeated neighbours Inter Milan 2-1. Duarte, who can also play at right-back, looks set to be available for selection against Neil Lennon’s side, though, providing manager StefanoThe 24-year-old has only featured in one Serie A fixture this season and was absent from AC Milan’s squad on the weekend as thy defeated neighbours Inter Milan 2-1.
"We must have enthusiasm and our goal is always to win and have fun, while playing football we like. Players must always think positively.
"We are interested in giving the maximum game by game. We are demonstrating awareness in the way we play. We must show match by match that we are competitive."
Milan have been further boosted ahead of their trip to the Dacia Arena as Ante Rebic is back in contention following more than a month out with a dislocated elbow.
The Croatia winger has played a direct part in 14 league goals in 21 appearances this calendar year, putting him behind only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (21) and Hakan Calhanoglu (16) among his team-mates.
"He has done well in the last two training sessions and is now available," Pioli said of Rebic. "He will start on the bench but will be able to play some part of the match."
Gianluigi Donnarumma is also back in Milan's squad after recovering from coronavirus as Milan aim to improve on a return of just three wins in their last 12 league visits to Udinese.
Milan 3-0 Sparta Prague: Diaz, Leao and Dalot on target as Ibrahimovic misses penalty .
Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao and Diogo Dalot were on target as Milan made it two wins from two in this season's Europa League.Stefano Pioli’s side – who beat Celtic 3-1 in their group opener last week – were sharp from the outset and went ahead after 24 minutes courtesy of Brahim Diaz's smart finish.