Soccer - Milan boss Pioli ready for intense battle against Spezia

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - AC Milan v Venezia - San Siro, Milan, Italy - September 22, 2021 AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

(Reuters) - AC Milan must forget last season's painful loss to Spezia and prepare for an intense game when the two sides meet again in Serie A on Saturday, manager Stefano Pioli said.

Milan were top when they suffered a 2-0 defeat at Spezia last term, eventually finishing second behind Inter Milan.

"We lacked everything against Spezia last season. This time, we must not concede as much and be more dangerous. We need clear ideas. We need to use different solutions and press high up the pitch, then we'll see what game they will play," said Pioli.

Milan have made a fine start to the season, winning four of their first five games to stand third, level on 13 points with champions Inter Milan and two points off leaders Napoli. Pioli urged his players to maintain that high standard on Saturday.

Spezia, on the other hand, have four points and are 17th.

"The quality of the players makes the difference. Luckily, we have many quality players. Tomorrow we will have to play the game and look for quality plays to solve it," said Pioli.

Milan will be without Alessandro Florenzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Simon Kjaer, while Pioli said Olivier Giroud and Davide Calabria were likely to feature.

The manager, however, added he was happy with the strength of his squad and that his players were good enough to challenge for the top places as they look to reel in Luciano Spalletti's pacesetters Napoli.

"I expected Napoli to do as well as they have. They've changed very little and are among the best in the league. They have a deep squad and a great coach. They'll fight for the Scudetto ... the battle for the top spots will be fierce," said Pioli.

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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