It was a job well done for AC Milan in the Coppa Italia last 16 against Cagliari tonight, and Stefano Pioli was pleased to get a win while giving key players rest.

Pioli chose to name quite an interesting starting line-up which featured the likes of Antonio Mirante, Jan-Carlo Simic, Alex Jimenez, Luka Romero and Chaka Traore against an also rotated Cagliari side.

Peppe Di Stefano spoke to Sky before the game about Pioli’s decision to rotate so heavily, given that it is a game in a competition in which Milan were knocked out at the first hurdle last season and haven’t won it for 21 years.

He revealed that it was a decision supported by the club’s management given the focus being on a top four finish and on the Europa League, but in the end it would pay off as Luka Jovic (x2), Chaka Traore (in his first start) and Rafael Leao netted in a 4-1 win to secure progress to the quarters.

Pioli spoke to Mediaset immediately after the game to reflect on what was a positive and confident performance from a heavily rotated side, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

There were many young players on the field tonight…

“We started off a little slow, some guys were a little excited, but after the goal we loosened up. I’m happy with their performances.

“The youngsters have changed, now it’s more easy to train the more experienced ones. Their attitudes give us hope, the youth sector has done a great job.

“They can stay with us, so they will no longer be considered just options, but alternatives when needed. We wanted this victory and we approached this match in the right way.”

Is the Coppa Italia a real target for Milan, despite the rotation?

“We care. Tonight there were two priorities, namely preserving those who played the most and fielding a team eager to win. We want to try, the Coppa Italia is one of our objectives, as is the Europa League.”

Were your selection choices lucky madness or risking it all?

“Absolutely not risking everything. I made some clear choices for our moment and for how I saw the boys. The priority was to preserve certain players.

“Loftus-Cheek and Bartesaghi had a fever, Kjaer can’t play three games in a row, Leao was coming back from an injury. The boys have shown that they deserve this chance.”

Luka Jovic is in a great run of form…

“He has great qualities, he must believe in it even more. He arrived when he wasn’t in condition, now he’s well physically and mentally, he must insist and continue with these ambitions and motivations.”


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