Pioli tells Milan they need a winning start this time

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Lazio v AC Milan - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - July 4, 2020 AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli before the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan have lost their opening Serie A match in each of the last two seasons and coach Stefano Pioli says they need to kick that habit when they host Bologna on Monday.

Pioli said Milan, sixth last season, were targeting a top four finish, which would get them back into the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14, but he did not want to talk about aiming for the title.

"If we want to finish in the top four, we need to start well," he told reporters. "We can’t be chasing the whole time. Starting with a win is vital, which is why we’re focusing on tomorrow’s match."

"We are an ambitious team, we are Milan and we must play to win and continue to improve, but without deluding ourselves," he added.

"To talk about a winning a championship which has not yet started is a gamble: forecasts are made to be proved wrong."

Milan lost their opening match 1-0 at Udinese last season and were beaten 3-2 at Napoli the season before that.

Pioli, appointed to replace Marco Giampaolo last October, was initially expected to step aside for Ralf Rangnick but Milan's excellent form in the second half of last season persuaded the club to extend his contract.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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