Pioli calls on Milan to raise the bar after Atalanta humbling

Stefano Pioli calls on his AC Milan players to raise their game after their 3-0 defeat against Atalanta on Saturday.

AC Milan head coach, Stefano Pioli. - REUTERS

Stefano Pioli called on his AC Milan players to raise their game after his side was crowned winter champion in Serie A despite suffering a crushing defeat to Atalanta on Saturday.

The title goes to the team at the top of the standings halfway through the campaign. It is usually a good indicator of what is to come, as 69 percent of winter champions have gone on to win the league.

“We know what our qualities are and we know that we must raise the level,” Pioli told Sky Sports. “The other teams are very strong. We're aware of our strengths and weaknesses and we can still improve.”

Milan is two points clear of Inter Milan at the summit, but the 3-0 humbling at home to the Bergamo side was its heaviest defeat of the season. “Atalanta’s merits are evident, as is the fact that we can do a lot better,” the coach added.

'Lacked precision and personality'

“On some occasions we lacked a bit of precision and personality. On the first goal we could’ve marked better and intercepted the cross earlier. They were better, but we’re still a strong side.”

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Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini was thrilled with his side’s rise to fourth place, seven points behind Milan. “For the timing of it and the quality of the opposition I think it was the best Atalanta of the season,” he said.

Gasperini’s side has picked up 36 points from its opening 19 games, a club record, but the 62-year-old would not be drawn into talk of a title challenge. “We want to be in the group at the top of the table, among the teams fighting for the Champions League,” he said.

“This is our main objective. If you’re wanting to put the word ‘Scudetto’ in my mouth you won’t manage.”

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