Stefano Pioli said AC Milan have their fate in their hands as they closed in on a return to the Champions League with a 7-0 thrashing of Torino.
Milan have not been in the Champions League, a competition they have won seven times before, since 2013-14. They looked certain to return this season when they started the campaign strongly and even looked to be in title contention. They then slipped off the pace, but have got back on track with consecutive wins in Turin.
At the weekend, they beat top-four rivals Juventus 3-0 away from home. Then on Wednesday, they earned an astonishing 7-0 win against Juve’s rivals Torino.
It marked the first time they have won a Serie A match by seven goals since 1959. Now, they are in joint-second place with two games left. They need just one more win to confirm their return to Europe’s elite competition.
Head coach Pioli is not taking anything for granted still, though. However, he was delighted with their application in their last two matches.
“Two such difficult away games and two such important performances are a very important sign,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.
“We still need one more win and we have to think about the next one.
“Until you are up… Anything can happen uphill. Two weeks ago, they all said we were half dead. Now we have the fate in our own hands.
“I asked the lads to play better than their opponents, because if you play better, you have a better chance of winning and we did.
“I always told the guys that I was lucky enough to coach not just any group, but a group that built itself.
“The club has always protected us, it’s good at Milanello. It’s a special group, the esteem and love they have for each other.
“We have been working for a year and a half and it shows, we will be able to celebrate only when we make it.
“We have become a mentally strong team. I never forget that I coach a very young team that have become mature and solid. They have awareness.
“It’s the most rewarding step for our work.”
Pioli praises Hernandez
Scorer of two of their seven goals was left-back Theo Hernandez, who has impressed since joining from Real Madrid in 2019.
Still only 23 years old, the Frenchman can produce more performances like this, according to his coach.
“If he plays with this attention, being inside the game with a little more mental vivacity, he’s very strong,” Pioli said.
“He can play both phases very well; with his physical abilities it is enough to stay in the game. He can very well become one of the best.
“He has only been playing continuously for a year-and-a-half. I always tell him that he must not be satisfied with being talented.
“He has an incredible physical strength and quality, he must prove that he wants to become the best every day.”
Milan’s ability to score seven was even more impressive without their legendary frontman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But Pioli is confident the Swede hasn’t played his last game of the season.
“[If he will be available] for the European Championship, I don’t know,” he said. “We hope to have him back for the last game against Atalanta.
“Zlatan is a phenomenon and he will come out of this situation too.”