AC Milan manager Pioli says his side meet Spurs in Champions League at 'right time'

The Rossoneri recently shook off a poor run of form with win over Torino

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli believes his side has found some form at just the right time as they meet Tottenham Hotspur in Champions League last 16.

The Italian giants had been without a victory for seven matches before their 1-0 win against Torino on Friday.

That Serie A triumph came after four straight defeats in all competitions for the Rossoneri. It was part of a poor run that stretched back to January 4 and included two losses to bitter rivals Inter Milan – one in the league and one in the Italian Super Cup.

They were also knocked out of the Italian Cup by Torino.

But Pioli believes they have returned to winning ways at the perfect moment as they take on Spurs in the Champions League last 16, their first knockout match in Europe's premier club competition since 2014.

Tottenham travel to the San Siro for the first leg having lost three of their past five Premier League games, including a 4-1 thrashing at Leicester City on Saturday, and missing several key players.

And Pioli said Milan's win over Torino had helped “cleanse our spirit” after their poor run.

“It has been a difficult month, for us and the whole club,” said Pioli. “We have to raise our game because the Champions League is more demanding and Tottenham is a strong team. It will be tough but it comes at the right time for us.”

Pioli could welcome defender Fikayo Tomori and midfielder Ismaal Bennacer back from injury after the players trained on Sunday.

“It’s clear we are still far away from our best level, not least in psychological terms,” Pioli said. “But we’ll be ready to play to the best of our ability and with both great energy and enthusiasm.”

Leicester 4 Tottenham 1 - in pictures

Spurs manager Antonio Conte was back for the Leicester game after undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder. He now faces a return to Italy and the San Siro, where he led Inter to the Serie A title in 2021. The Italian coach also took Juventus to three titles.

“It’s good for the club, the team and everyone to have Antonio back,” assistant coach assistant Cristian Stellini said. “He has to take it easy a bit, he cannot use his energy 100 per cent and we have to give something more to cover the gap."

Conte has a superb record against Milan, having won 10 of 14 games against the Rossoneri as coach and only losing one.

The two sides have met each other once before in the Champions League, at the same stage in 2011. Tottenham went through 1-0 on aggregate after Peter Crouch scored at San Siro in the first leg.

Tottenham will be without midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Leicester.

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and midfielder Yves Bissouma are major doubts due to injury and midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is suspended for the first leg.

Updated: February 13, 2023, 2:24 PM