AC Milan Manager Stefano Pioli has claimed that He expects a tougher challenge from domestic side Empoli than Chelsea as the two European giants prepare to face off in a double harder tie next week.
The Italian Champions are currently top of Group E with four points after winning one and drawing one of their first two group stage matches. Chelsea is at the bottom of the group with one point and may face elimination or dropping into the Europa League if they cannot get at least a win from one of two ties with AC Milan.
However, AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli claims he expects a tougher game against Empoli in Serie A than Chelsea in the Champions League.
What did Stefano Pioli say?
The former Inter Milan and Fiorentina said: “I don’t think there’s that much difference between playing well in Italy and Europe. The Champions League does require a higher tempo, but nothing impossible.
“I understand there are expectations around the Chelsea games, but I maintain the most difficult match for us will certainly be against Empoli.
“When we go into that fixture, I’ll have welcomed the players back from international duty only two days earlier.
“I trust that if we play at our usual levels, then results against Chelsea are certainly within our reach.’
The Italian Champions see themselves fifth on the Serie A table 2-1 defeat to Current league leaders Napoli during the weekend.
“We are trying to improve our level even more after last season, but Serie A is a well-balanced league and everyone has leveled up with reinforcements, so we want to stay in the group fighting for the title to the end.
“Our performance against Napoli was of a high level, but the fact we didn’t pick up points means we can and must do better in some situations.
“I do feel at home in Milan, and when you feel at home, you don’t want to even consider other options. We have many things still to do, but I am absolutely not worried about my contract or my future.
“Milan’s objective is to be competitive and to win silverware. We want to continue improving, as we remain a young side, but have the confidence that can allow us to aim for the top.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea midfielder Denis Zakaria has revealed that he was close to joining Liverpool.
The Swiss international told Blick: “I heard that from my agent, but in the end, it was Chelsea.
“It all happened very quickly. I didn’t know a move to Chelsea was possible until six hours before the end of the transfer window.
“I think I’ll be happier in England than in Turin. Difficult to say [what went wrong at Juventus].
“Maybe the style of football wasn’t mine. The team was a lot behind and didn’t have that much space. I’m a player who needs a lot of space for my runs. It might suit me better in England.”
He also added that Thomas Tuchel was the reason he choose Chelsea.
“Thomas Tuchel was one of the reasons I went to Chelsea. He’s a great coach.
“But now we haven’t had much time with him, but that’s football. Everything goes fast.
“I might have a new chance with the new coach [Graham Potter], about whom I’ve heard a lot of good things. I will work a lot to get my place.”
Zakaria is yet to make his debut for Chelsea.