Pioli targets Europe with Milan but knows sack threat lingers

Goal.com

Stefano Pioli has ordered his Milan team to cut out the wasteful finishing that has blighted their season as he plots a route into Europe amid intense speculation over his position at San Siro.

The Champions League is surely out of reach for the seven-time European champions, with fourth-placed Atalanta 12 points better off in Serie A having played a game less.

The Rossoneri last appeared in that top-table competition in 2013-14, and have toiled ever since, but seventh place could be enough for a Europa League spot.

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And that should be well within range for the Rossoneri, with or without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is still working his way back from a calf injury.

Milan sit ninth heading into Monday's trip to Lecce, and there is no mistaking where their main problem lies, with a paltry 28 goals from 26 league games so far.

Pioli, who succeeded Marco Giampaolo in October, accepts his job will be under threat if Milan fail to deliver over their final 12 matches of the season, which is resuming after the coronavirus suspension.

Rumours abound about the possibility of Ralf Rangnick or Julian Nagelsmann taking the Milan hot seat next season.

"Today we are not in Europe, but even if we were, everything can change in 40 days," Pioli told a pre-match news conference. "It would be a shame to finish the season in this position, we have to recover quickly.

"We don't have an easy schedule but we have shown that we can compete with those ahead of us. We have shown that we have quality and sacrifice, tomorrow is a very important match.

"We are not the fourth-worst attack in the league because we haven't created chances, but because we have one of the lowest conversion rates. We have to improve on this.

"There will be chances to make the difference, to score another goal will be even more important. We have to improve this data."

Ibrahimovic will sit out the Lecce game but the 38-year-old Sweden great, brought in at the turn of the year on a six-month deal, should be fit to contribute over the closing stretch.

Pioli said Ibrahimovic was "better" and would be examined next week, adding: "He is working with great dedication and commitment."

The Milan head coach confirmed defender Mateo Musacchio, who needs ankle surgery, is unlikely to play again this term.

Lecce are in a relegation battle so have plenty of incentive to add to Milan's problems.

Yet, if Pioli is to get a second season, he knows Milan cannot afford to sleepwalk their way to the end of this campaign.

"The future of all the coaches depends on these 40 days," he said. "Everyone can be talked about. We live on results.

"We have a great target to chase, our position in the table does not reflect our qualities and we have the chance to prove it."

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