AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has labelled Wednesday night’s clash with Newcastle United “a final” that leaves only “one possibility” of staying in the Uefa Champions League.
Both sides need to win to have any chance of progressing to the knockout stage, although both clubs will be eliminated if they draw or Paris Saint-Germain beat Borussia Dortmund in the other game in Group F.
“It is a final for us, the first real crossroads of the season, in the sense that remaining in Europe is our objective,” Pioli told Milan TV ahead of the game.
“We have one possibility, which is to win and not look too much at what the others do. We are concentrated on achieving that target, so the motivation, focus, concentration and determination of the squad will be at the maximum.
“It is clear that the Champions League enhances all the characteristics of our preparation, concentration, hunger to do well on a stage like this. Clearly, the atmosphere affects us. It is equally clear that we have just one chance and we are focused on that.”
Milan were the better side when the two sides met at the San Siro, but the Magpies clung on for a scoreless draw. Pioli, though, is acutely aware of how dangerous an opponent Newcastle can be at St. James’ Park.
“They are among the opponents who change the most for their attitude, intensity, energy and quality of performance at home compared to on their travels,” continued Pioli.
“Their only home defeat in the Champions League was against Borussia Dortmund, and just once all season in the Premier League with Liverpool.
“We expect a fiery atmosphere, an energetic opponent, intense, physical above all in their approach to the game. We must be prepared to face this time of team and know that we need a performance of a high level.”
Pioli can call on the Premier League experience of four players in his squad who previously played in the English top flight, all of whom could play a part
“As soon as we got Newcastle in the draw last summer, Fikayo Tomori, Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek said this is the most passionate, fiery and energetic stadium in the whole of the Premier League. We already experienced stadiums like Anfield, Tottenham’s stadium and Stamford Bridge.
“We saw that situations above all want to provoke at the start of the game and in which direction they want to take the match. We must be prepared to play a great game, because we have a big opportunity and must do everything to bring it home.”