Soccer-'We need to win ugly more' - coach Pioli plays down AC Milan title talk

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Bologna v AC Milan - Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna, Italy - October 23, 2021 AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli reacts REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli said it is too early to entertain talk of a Serie A title challenge from his side this season, calling on his team to learn the art of winning ugly if they are to emerge victorious at the end of the campaign.

Pioli's side have impressed so far this season, winning eight and drawing one of their nine league games following their 4-2 success at Bologna on Saturday.

Saturday's performance was far from a vintage one, as Milan needed two late goals to beat nine-man Bologna, but Pioli feels more victories when his side are not at their best are needed if they are to go on to win the Scudetto.

"It's too early (for title talk), nine matches are nothing," Pioli told a news conference ahead of his side's clash with Torino on Tuesday.

"The next step is to go all the way. Last year we lacked something in terms of consistency, where we lost points when our performances dropped.

"The successful teams win even when you don't play well - I believe that the step to take is this. When we play well - we often win well, but when we can't play well we have to give everything until the end knowing that we have the quality to win games."

Veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first Serie A start of the season in the win at Bologna and dropped deeper than normal to get involved in the play more - something Pioli said his side have been working on.

"It doesn't matter who we have between the lines, but we have to stay there," he added. "We made an excellent move in the first goal (for Rafael Leao) against Bologna.

"We must have players between the lines, players dropping deep and being open - if they are not always the same player then it means that we are still a little unpredictable."

Pioli also revealed French full back Theo Hernandez, who the club confirmed has recovered from COVID-19 on Sunday, could feature against Torino.

(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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