Pioli calls for focus as Milan closes in on Champions League return

AC Milan last graced European football’s top club competition in 2013/14, but is now one victory away from booking a place in the group stages for next season.

Stefano Pioli

AC Milan's Stefano Pioli before a match against Torino.   -  REUTERS

Stefano Pioli says mentality will be key for his AC Milan players when they try to clinch Champions League qualification for the first time in eight years by beating Cagliari in Serie A on Sunday.

The Milanese club last graced European football’s top club competition in 2013/14, but is now one victory away from booking a place in the group stages for next season.

“The fact that it has been so long raises expectations. We are a top club and we know we have worked well for this game,” Pioli told a news conference.

“We must be mentally prepared. These matches are always complicated and never simple."

Milan is third in the standings, three points ahead of Juventus in fifth, but its better head-to-head record against the Turin club means it will finish in front of Andrea Pirlo’s side regardless of other results if it beats Cagliari.

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The Sardinian side is 16th and five points clear of the relegation zone with two games to go.

But it faces a daunting task at San Siro against a Milan side that thrashed Torino 7-0 on Wednesday, three days after a comfortable 3-0 win over Juventus.

“Everything we have done this week will count for little if we don’t manage to achieve our goal tomorrow,” Pioli said.

“After the game on Wednesday evening, the objective is to keep the concentration high through private and collective conversations.

“I have a responsible group on my hands, who are always careful to react in the right way.”

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