Stefano Pioli credited his Milan players for their efforts in a "perfect week" after Junior Messias' goal guided them to victory at Monza.

Messias' well-taken volley ensured Milan secured a third 1-0 win in the space of eight days, having previously gone seven games without winning across all competitions. 

While that run left Milan's Scudetto defence in tatters, the Rossoneri are third in the Serie A table after keeping three clean sheets in a row for the first time since a run of seven ended last April.

Having seen Milan build on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 victory against Tottenham, Pioli hailed his team's powers of recovery and challenged them to kick on.

"It was the perfect week, we can start over from here," Pioli said at his post-match press conference. "We haven't even conceded a goal and we're on the right track. 

"We needed to regain unity, the difference now isn't tactics but the desire we've regained to win, to compete for the second balls. 

"Monza were brilliant in the second half but we fought until the end and this is important. It's a shame we didn't finish the game in the second half."

Milan have now won back-to-back Serie A games for the first time since the Italian top flight restarted after the World Cup, having only tasted victory twice in their previous five league contests.

Pioli's decision to switch to a three-man backline has provoked Milan's revival, with wing-backs Messias and Theo Hernandez impressing once again at Monza.

Asked about Milan's change of system, Pioli said: "We'll go back to playing with four when we find the right characteristics. 

"Malik Thiaw gives us physicality and the possibility of duelling with physical forwards. The other players also have the characteristics to play in a three."

Milan climbed into Serie A's top four as Junior Messias secured a 1-0 win at Monza, whose owner Silvio Berlusconi failed to get one over on his old club.

Messias fired home on the turn just after the half-hour mark after Monza – who entered the game as Serie A's only unbeaten team in 2023 – twice went close in a fast start to Saturday's match.

Monza played their part in a lively affair but were unable to give Berlusconi – who bankrolled Milan to five European crowns – a result to cherish against his beloved Rossoneri.

Milan were able to claim victory without calling on Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the first time this season, with the striker again an unused substitute as they moved above Atalanta and Roma into third place.

Ciprian Tatarusanu was forced into action twice in the first two minutes, turning Patrick Ciurria's attempt away at the near post before denying Andrea Petagna from the resulting corner.

Rafael Leao saw a dipping 25-yard strike brush the post as Milan played their way into the game, while Michele Di Gregorio made two sharp saves to keep out Brahim Diaz and Fikayo Tomori.

Di Gregorio was finally beaten 31 minutes in, however, getting a hand to Messias' powerful left-footed volley but failing to stop the ball from finding the bottom-right corner.

Ciurria drilled a 20-yard effort against the foot of the post with 17 minutes remaining, but Milan stood firm and almost added a second through Charles De Ketelaere. 

Stefano Pioli set Milan the target of securing a top-four finish in Serie A as he declared himself satisfied with the Rossoneri's response to a dire run of form.

Milan went seven games without a win across all competitions recently, losing three successive league matches before stopping the rot against Torino last Friday.

The Rossoneri then built on that victory with a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Tottenham, with Spurs failing to respond to Brahim Diaz's early header.

Having been heavily criticised for his tactical switches during Milan's poor run, Pioli has been vindicated by those victories, although he maintains they have work to do to secure a top-four finish.

"Everyone experiences the results with their gut; we have to be impervious to both criticism and excessive praise," Pioli said at a press conference to preview Saturday's trip to Monza.

"It's the league season that gives us the concrete possibility of playing in the Champions League again next year. I've seen the things I wanted to see.

"We're coming from two very good games, and we're trying to win tomorrow. The next game will tell how the team is doing, against a team that is doing very well and playing very well."

Milan are still waiting for the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was an unused substitute for last week's win against Torino after recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.

The 41-year-old striker was absent from the matchday squad for Tuesday's win over Spurs but is available to face Monza, although the form of Olivier Giroud means Pioli has a decision to make.

"The more [Ibrahimovic] trains, the more his condition increases. He'll be available tomorrow, too," Pioli said.

"Giroud is doing very well, [Divock] Origi is doing well, too, and tomorrow I'll see what choices to make."

Saturday's game will see Milan reunited with former owner Silvio Berlusconi, who has overseen Monza's dramatic rise to the top flight since purchasing the club in 2018.

The 86-year-old recently declared Portugal international Rafael Leao should be used in a central striking role by Milan, and Pioli was in no mood to argue with him.

"I always agree with Berlusconi," Pioli smiled. "Always." 

Stefano Pioli was "satisfied" with a 1-0 Champions League win over Tottenham but knows Milan face a stern test in the second leg.

Brahim Diaz's early goal at San Siro on Tuesday ensured the Rossoneri will take a slender advantage to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 8 in the battle for a quarter-final spot.

The Serie A champions beat Torino 1-0 last Friday to end a dismal run of seven games without a victory and they followed that up with a first win over Spurs in a competitive match at the fifth attempt.

Charles De Ketelaere and Malick Thiaw wasted glorious chances to extend Milan's lead in the last-16 tie, but a heavier defeat would have been harsh on Antonio Conte's side on the former Inter head coach's return to San Siro.

Rossoneri boss Pioli was content to be in front at the halfway stage in the clash, knowing the Premier League club will fancy their chances of coming from behind in London next month.

He told Mediaset: "It was a difficult, hard-fought match against a tough team. We played a good game, but we know how tough it will be. But tonight I'm satisfied."

Pioli added: "This performance will give us morale, but we have to be attentive, dynamic, ready. We've had a difficult month, but we're trying to overcome all the difficulties. I keep thinking and believing I'm coaching a truly special group."

Asked if he was disappointed not having a bigger lead, he replied: "Yes, for those two chances... De Ketelaere's and Thiaw's. But they, too, put us in difficulty and there are many positive aspects.

"It was only the first stage and the second will be even more difficult."

Stefano Pioli is relishing Tuesday's meeting with old foe Antonio Conte as Milan prepare to host Tottenham in their first outing in the Champions League knockout stages since 2014.

Milan finished second to Chelsea in Group E to progress to the last 16 for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when they were hammered 5-1 on aggregate by Atletico Madrid.

Conte's Tottenham stand between Milan and a spot in the last eight, with the former Juventus and Inter boss one of five Italian coaches still present in the competition.

Conte has won eight of his last nine games against Milan (L1) in a run dating back to 2013, and he joins Pioli, Inter's Simone Inzaghi, Napoli's Luciano Spalletti and Real Madrid's Champions League specialist Carlo Ancelotti on an impressive list of Italian bosses to escape the group stage.

Asked who was the strongest of those coaches at Monday's pre-match press conference, Pioli said: "Ancelotti is a symbol but so are Conte and Spalletti. 

"There are lots of good coaches, we have a good school and important characteristics. 

"Conte is a great coach and one of the few colleagues who called to congratulate me on the Scudetto last season.

"It will be a difficult challenge, inevitably it will be like this for a quarter-final place. A week ago they beat Manchester City. It will be a great game that we will have to play well."

Despite Milan's absence from the latter stages of the competition in recent years, only Real Madrid (14) can better the Rossoneri's tally of seven European Cup/Champions League titles.

Asked whether Milan's illustrious history in the competition could present a psychological barrier for Spurs, Pioli said: "I can't know what our opponents are experiencing, I know what we feel. 

"We are highly motivated and it's normal. We only think up to Tottenham. Winning the Champions League is a dream today but it's useless to think about it now."

With Milan 18 points adrift of Serie A leaders Napoli and suffering defeats in the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana last month, their Champions League tie against Spurs will go a long way to dictating whether their season is deemed a success.  

Speaking to Sky Sport ahead of his press conference, Pioli described the tie as the most crucial occasion of his career.

"They will be the two most important matches of my career, having never played in a Champions League round of 16. We have prepared ourselves in the best possible way," he said.

"Our aim is to play with more pace and intensity, you can't ignore that in these competitions. We have prepared ourselves to be up to it."

The last 16 of the Champions League gets underway on Tuesday with two potentially fascinating encounters.

Milan host Tottenham in the Rossoneri's first Champions League knockout game since the 2013-14 season, while two of the favourites in this year's competition, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, face off in the French capital.

Neither Milan nor Spurs come into their first leg in the best form, with Stefano Pioli's side getting their first win in eight games on Friday against Torino, while their English opponents were thrashed 4-1 by Leicester City.

PSG are also faltering, having lost 3-1 at Monaco at the weekend, leading to fan protests and Presnel Kimpembe having to calm them down through a megaphone.

Bayern will hope to add to the problems of Christophe Galtier's men, who seem likely to be without Kylian Mbappe, but Julian Nagelsmann admitted his own players are "not in the flow" in spite of their 3-0 win against Bochum on Saturday.

Stats Perform has taken a look at some Opta numbers ahead of the first pair of Champions League knockout games.

Milan v Tottenham

This will be the fifth competitive meeting between Milan and Tottenham, with the Premier League side unbeaten across each of the previous four (W2 D2).

They last played each other in the 2010-11 campaign at the same stage of the Champions League. Spurs won 1-0 on aggregate, with Peter Crouch scoring the only goal of the tie.

Spurs boss Antonio Conte has won eight of his last nine games as a head coach against Milan (L1), between 2013 and 2021. Indeed, he has seen his side win and keep a clean sheet in each of his last three trips to face the Rossoneri away from home (2-0 in 2014, 2-0 in 2019 and 3-0 in 2021 – all in Serie A).

Conte will be looking to win consecutive away games in the Champions League for just the second time in his managerial career, having last done so in the 2012-13 campaign when he was at Juventus (1-0 v Shakhtar Donetsk and 3-0 v Celtic).

Olivier Giroud has been directly involved in six goals for Milan in the Champions League (four goals and two assists) – the last player with more in a single campaign in the competition for the club was Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 2011-12 season (nine – five goals and four assists).

Ivan Perisic has three assists in five appearances for Spurs in the Champions League, already his joint-most for a club among the four he has played for in the competition: three in 10 games for Bayern, one in 20 for Inter and none in 11 for Borussia Dortmund.

The three players to have recovered possession most often in the middle third of the pitch in the Champions League this season all play for either Milan or Spurs: Rodrigo Bentancur (34), Ismael Bennacer (32) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (31), though Bentancur will be missing after suffering a season-ending knee injury at the weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Munich

PSG have faced Bayern on 11 previous occasions, with all of them coming in the Champions League. The teams are separated by just one victory (six for PSG and five for Bayern), while they have scored the same number of goals (15 each).

Among teams who have faced Bayern on 10+ occasions in the Champions League, PSG are the team with the highest win percentage against them (55).

Bayern won all six of their group games this season, scoring 18 goals and only conceding twice. The only previous occasion in which they won their first seven matches of a Champions League campaign was in the 2019-20 campaign, when they had a 100 per cent record (11/11) in the competition.

PSG have only failed to score in one of their last 32 home games in the Champions League (averaging 2.6 goals per game), though the exception was in a 1-0 defeat against Bayern in the 2020-21 quarter-final second leg.

Joshua Kimmich has won 76 per cent of his matches for Bayern in the Champions League (50/66). Among all players to make 50+ appearances in the competition, he is the only player to have featured on the winning side in more than three quarters of his games.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season – his first at PSG – Mbappe has been directly involved in 57 goals in 50 appearances in the Champions League (34 goals and 23 assists). Indeed, he is the only player with both 20+ goals and 20+ assists during this period. He will be a big miss should he not recover from injury in time, though he did train on Monday.

In the last two Champions League campaigns, only Robert Lewandowski (21), Mbappe (20) and Mohamed Salah (18) have been directly involved in more goals than Leroy Sane (17 – 10 goals, seven assists).

Lionel Messi has generated more shots following a carry (moving five or more metres with the ball) than any other player in the Champions League this season (14 – six shots and eight chances created).

Milan coach Stefano Pioli believes Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Tottenham arrives at the ideal time for his team, saying Friday's win over Torino helped to "cleanse our spirit".

Scudetto holders Milan halted a five-game winless run in Serie A with the 1-0 victory, as Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of a tight contest at San Siro.

The result lifted the Rossoneri from sixth to third in the Italian top flight ahead of Saturday's fixtures, but they must swiftly turn their attention to Europe in the coming days.

Milan will play their first match in the Champions League knockout stages since 2014 when they welcome Antonio Conte's Spurs to Italy for the first leg of their last-16 tussle.

Asked whether that game comes at a good time for Milan after their confidence-boosting victory, Pioli said: "Yes. The Champions League is what we wanted and deserved. 

"From the round of 16 onwards, anyone would have been a very difficult and competitive opponent, especially the English teams. 

"We'll be there, it will be a difficult match. I know Tottenham well because I know Conte and they deservedly won against [Manchester] City [last week]. 

"It comes at the right time, this victory will cleanse our heads and our spirit a little. We will be ready to play a match to the best of our ability. 

"I can only congratulate our fans, it was a difficult period for them. The fact that they continue to support us can only help us. 

"On Tuesday there will be an audience with great opportunities, and we want to live up to the fans and the Champions League."

The last meeting between Milan and Spurs came at the same stage of the competition in the 2010-11 campaign, when the London club triumphed 1-0 on aggregate via a Peter Crouch goal.

Meanwhile, Tottenham's former Juventus and Inter boss Conte has won eight of his last nine games against Milan (L1), and Pioli knows the Rossoneri will have to step things up.

"We have to do much better, raise the level of the game," he said. "Tottenham are a very strong team, but there is satisfaction. The team worked a lot during the match and that's the most important thing."

Stefano Pioli has defended Milan's decision to not sign a new goalkeeper, despite first choice Mike Maignan still being ruled out indefinitely.

Maignan has not played for Milan since injuring his calf during France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on September 22.

The 27-year-old was subsequently ruled out of France's World Cup campaign and has now missed Milan's past 20 matches, with veteran goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu deputising.

Reigning Italian champions Milan's form has nosedived since the turn of the year, having gone seven matches without a win in all competitions, losing five of those.

Milan are unsure when Maignan will return, meaning Tatarusanu is set to start Friday's league game with Torino and next week's Champions League last-16 first leg with Tottenham.

It was previously suggested Milan's board were behind the decision to not recruit an established keeper in January, but Pioli has confirmed he also had a say in the matter.

"The choice was mine and that of the technical team," he said at Thursday's pre-match press conference ahead of facing Torino. 

"We have faith in Tatarusanu and we think that Maignan could be back in action soon."

Asked exactly when he expects Maignan to return to the side, Pioli said: "I don't know. His recovery is progressing well and he's returned to the field, albeit not with the team."

 

In better news on the injury front for Milan, veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to team training last week and is closing in on a comeback after nine months out injured.

Pioli, whose side have slipped to sixth and are 18 points off leaders Napoli, suggested Ibrahimovic may play a part against Torino.

"He's feeling better," Pioli said. "His role in the side is to be a great motivator and a great player. He'll be with us tomorrow because he wants to be with us."

Rafael Leao is pushing for a recall after being named as a substitute in Milan's past two Serie A games – not since between March and July 2020 has he been benched three games in a row.

"Leao is important for me and the team," Pioli said of the Chelsea-linked forward, who has nine goals and seven assists in 28 appearances this season.

"He's back from the World Cup and played well against Salernitana before losing a bit of his brilliance. He's much happier when he's playing, but I see a motivated and focused player."

Pioli is aiming to avoid losing four successive Serie A games as a manager for only the second time, having previously done so in 2012 as Bologna head coach.

Milan have lost their past two meetings with seventh-place Torino – not since 1969 have they lost three in a row in this fixture – and Pioli accepts an improvement is needed.

"They are a tricky team to play against," he said. "They have caused problems by pressing all over the pitch.

"We have to move a lot better and do something different compared to our past two games against them."

Stefano Pioli's decision to employ a three-man defence in Sunday's 1-0 derby defeat to Inter erased years of good work with the Rossoneri, according to legendary former boss Arrigo Sacchi.

Lautaro Martinez's first-half goal condemned Milan to another chastening defeat at San Siro, meaning they have gone five league games without a win for the first time since 2018.

Last season's Scudetto winners have now lost four consecutive games in all competitions, and they sit 18 points adrift of runaway leaders Napoli after slumping to sixth place in Serie A.

Milan failed to attempt a single shot on target in the game after opting to match Inter's 3-5-2 system, and Sacchi says the Rossoneri no longer resemble a coherent side. 

"Milan were no longer a team, especially in the first half. Inter did not play against an opponent, but against a sparring partner," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday.

"Switching to a three-man defence created confusion and erased the last few years of work. Furthermore, any idea of the game was cancelled. 

 

"How many shots on goal did Milan make in the first half? Zero. It was a monologue from Inter who didn't struggle too much and ended up dominating. 

"Simone Inzaghi's players are almost all of a high level and all have great experience. You can only win against Inter if you play as a team, something that Milan did not do."

Milan required 58 minutes to attempt a shot in Sunday's game, the latest point at which they have managed their first effort of a Serie A fixture on record (since the 2004-05 season), and mustered just four efforts, with none on target, for an accumulative expected goals (xG) of 0.3.

They face Torino in their next league fixture on Friday, before hosting Tottenham in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie four days later.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli defended his decision to start with Rafael Leao on the bench after his struggling team went down 1-0 to Inter in Sunday's derby.

Last season's champions sit sixth in Serie A after 21 games, in danger of failing to qualify for next season's Champions League unless they buck up their ideas.

They have lost four games in a row, with losses to Inter in the Supercoppa and Serie A sandwiching a 4-0 drubbing by Lazio and a 5-2 mauling at home by Sassuolo.

It was league duty on Sunday, and Leao was only a substitute, despite being a two-goal hero in September when Milan took the derby spoils 3-2 to keep pace with early bolters Napoli.

While Napoli have kept up their early frantic pace, and now sit 13 points clear of second-placed Inter, Milan have lost all momentum.

Pioli began against Inter with former Liverpool fringe man Divock Origi alongside Olivier Giroud in attack, abandoning the partnership early in the second half when the ineffective Origi was hauled off and Leao made his entrance.

The skilful Portuguese forward almost teed up an equaliser for Giroud, but the French striker's control was awful and the chance was lost, but that moment of fast-paced dribbling excellence highlighted Leao's threat.

"He has enormous potential," said Pioli, "but I chose to play with two centre-forwards who are closer vertically to put Inter's defence in difficulty, even if we didn't succeed.

"I trust a lot in Leao, even if he didn't start from the beginning. The choices I made are the best for what I saw during the week, for what the preparation for the match was and for the positions I wanted to fill."

With the benefit of hindsight, Pioli said he would "do it again" when asked about Leao's omission.

In all, Milan have not won for seven games, and they face Torino on Friday before a Champions League tussle with Tottenham the following Tuesday.

Tottenham's former Inter boss Antonio Conte may be licking his lips at that prospect, with Milan's defending leaving plenty to be desired in recent weeks.

Lautaro Martinez headed in Hakan Calhanoglu's corner for the only goal of the derby, and Pioli accepted his players were found lacking.

"Unfortunately we found ourselves unprepared once again on a dead ball," he said. "Up to that moment, we were working well as a team. We did better in the second half."

Pioli knows the drastic slide in form has left many Milan supporters agog, and he said: "The fans have every right to criticise, the last few performances haven't been up to par."

Yet Pioli still has the support of the dressing room, according to midfielder Rade Krunic.

Krunic told DAZN: "If you lose such an important match there are few positive things. The only thing to take away is the reaction in the second half, where we did better than in the first half.

"We seemed to be doing better in training than today. We believe in Pioli."

Alexandre Pato has urged Milan forward Rafael Leao to stay put, claiming the Portugal international "has a home and everything he needs".

Leao played a key role as Milan ended their 11-year wait for the Scudetto last season, scoring 11 goals for Stefano Pioli's side in Serie A.

He has netted nine times this term for his club, while he also scored twice at the World Cup in Qatar.

The 23-year-old, whose existing contract expires in 2024, has been linked with a move away from San Siro, with the Real Madrid, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool rumoured to be potential destinations.

Reports in Italy have claimed discussions between Leao and Milan over a new deal had broken down, though these were dismissed by the club and the player's agent Ted Dimvula, who described it as "false and misleading information".

Pato, who spent six years at Milan between 2007 and 2013, has encouraged Leao not to be swayed by outside influences.

"He has to do what he feels with his heart, because sometimes you have too many people around you telling you what to do," the former Brazil striker told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He must decide for what he thinks will make him happy. Leao, however, has a home at Milan, he has everything he needs."

Pato feels Leao "can make the difference" in Sunday's Derby della Madonnina against rivals Inter, where Milan will be aiming to end a six-match winless streak.

Part of the Scudetto-winning side of 2011, Pato believes this season's squad must improve their attitude, though he remains confident Pioli can inspire an upturn in fortunes.

"The premise is that in my dressing room, there were quite a few legends," he observed. "Between training sessions and matches, there was no difference; the attitude was the same.

"I was lucky enough to see [Paolo] Maldini train 110 per cent every day. He arrived earlier, did extra work. [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] the same, Cafu the same. Champions who didn't think about the clock, but only about working as hard as possible.

"So more than talking, all you had to do to understand the right path was to observe. As for the current situation, I can only say that if they're using the same attitude as last year, it's not good.

"Sometimes, the management that follows wins is more complicated than when you don't win. However, I'm sure that Pioli will turn the light back on."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has provided Milan with a major lift ahead of the derby against Inter, returning to first-team training and sharing pearls of wisdom with his Rossoneri team-mates.

Sunday's San Siro battle comes too soon for Ibrahimovic to make an impact on the pitch, but the 41-year-old striker is back in the fold, close to returning from the knee surgery he underwent last May.

It was envisaged he would be absent for around eight months, and Milan have given the veteran all the time he needs.

Head coach Stefano Pioli believes having Ibrahimovic around the squad can only be a positive as last season's Serie A champions bid to recover from a drastic dip in form.

Milan have lost three games in a row, including a Supercoppa Italiana final 3-0 thumping by Inter, and are without a win in their last six.

Discussing the return of the charismatic Ibrahimovic, who is a former Inter player, Pioli said on Saturday: "He has always been fundamental for this team.

"On Friday he resumed training with us, even if to a small extent. Unfortunately, the two games against Tottenham [in the Champions League] come too soon, and right now we don't know when he will be at 100 per cent.

"I hope with all my heart he can come back soon, especially for what he's doing. Few people would do what he's doing to come back from such a difficult and complicated injury.

"Has he talked to his team-mates? I think so, he knows how to strike the right chords."

Pioli's team have slipped 15 points behind leaders Napoli and entered the weekend in fifth place, albeit only two points behind second-placed Inter, so there is all to play for at San Siro.

"It will be a great opportunity for us and we must do everything to seize it," Pioli said. "Inter come into the match in excellent form, but we have a great desire to start again."

Since the Supercoppa loss on January 18, Milan have been beaten 4-0 at Lazio and 5-2 at home by lowly Sassuolo, putting their top-four prospects in unexpected mid-season peril.

Inter will fancy piling on more misery, but Pioli said: "We have not lost the spirit that has always distinguished us. We must go back to showing it."

Milan are determined to get back into the top four and ink themselves in for another Champions League campaign, but Pioli said: "It shouldn't be taken for granted.

"We have to win many games from here until the end to get as high as possible."

Stefano Pioli accepts something has to change at Milan if they are emerge from their slump after achieving an unwanted first with their 5-2 loss at home to Sassuolo on Sunday.

The Rossoneri shipped four or more goals in successive Serie A matches for the first time in their history, having previously been thumped 4-0 at Lazio in midweek.

Milan also recently suffered a 3-0 defeat to rivals Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana, meaning they have lost three in a row in all competitions for the first time since September 2019.

Without a win in six games going further back, the pressure is building on head coach Pioli, who ended the club's 11-year Scudetto wait last season.

While the 57-year-old is expected to be given more time to turn things around, he understands Milan cannot carry on as they are.

"I'm thinking about many things," he told Sky Sport. "Everything that has worked over the past two years isn't working right now.

"It's clear that if you want to change results, you have to change something. I'll make the decisions that are needed to bring us more compactness, energy and better balance."

Domenico Berardi helped pile the misery on Milan at San Siro with a goal and assists for Gregoire Defrel, Davide Frattesi and Matheus Henrique.

Armand Lauriente was also on the scoresheet from the penalty spot, with Olivier Giroud and Divock Origi netting what proved to be consolation goals for out-of-form Milan.

 

It marks the first time the Rossoneri have conceded five goals at home in a league match since April 1997 when losing 6-1 to Juventus.

And with Serie A leaders Napoli 10 points clear of Milan ahead of facing Roma later on Sunday, Pioli concedes his side's hopes of defending the title are over.

"To say I'm disappointed doesn't cut it," Pioli said. "These recent performances have left us in difficulty, but this must push me to understand certain situations must be improved.

"We have to react. We probably won't be able to win the Scudetto again. Instead, our Scudetto is fighting to finish in the Champions League spots, which we can achieve."

Next up for Milan is another Derby della Madonnina showdown with Inter at San Siro next weekend, and striker Giroud has called for unity during a tough period for the club.

"It's a difficult moment for us, but we have to stay together," he told DAZN. "We have the support of the fans, which we have seen.

"We want to give everything for them on the pitch because they deserve more. At the moment I realise things are not going in the right direction. We have to work harder.

"Everything is going wrong for us. Our attitude is good and we want to do well, but it's not enough. 

"Whoever plays, however, must do more, myself included. Let's try to stay united. We have the opportunity to raise the level in the derby with Inter next week."

Stefano Pioli is not expecting Milan to do business before the transfer window closes on Tuesday, believing their squad already contains the solutions to all their problems.

The Rossoneri have suffered an alarming slump this month, going five matches without a win across all competitions.

The three defeats in that run have been particularly concerning as Milan have crashed out of the Coppa Italia to Torino, lost 3-0 to rivals Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana and been on the end of a 4-0 thrashing by Lazio this week.

Yet Pioli is relying on the players who have struggled of late to set Milan back on course, starting against Sassuolo on Sunday.

"We have the resources to get out of this moment," the coach said. "The club has been expressing itself on the market for some time.

"We're recovering from injuries, so that's how we're doing."

Pioli agreed Milan are dealing with a mental issue, but he has no doubts about the attitude of his players.

"Absolutely. No-one should think that the players do not want to overcome this moment or that they do not put in 100 per cent," he said. "I have always seen great attention and will.

"This moment is overcome by working, because we know how to do much better than what we are doing."

Milan have not gone six matches without a win since April 2018, then led by Gennaro Gattuso, and Pioli acknowledges only the result matters against Sassuolo at San Siro.

"Maybe winning tomorrow will see the return of our self-esteem," he said. "And the results and football will be as beautiful as we have always been."

Stefano Pioli wants Milan to "shut up and work" after they lost more ground in the Serie A title race with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Lazio on Tuesday.

The Rossoneri lost for the first time in seven league matches with goals from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Mattia Zaccagni giving Maurizio Sarri's side the advantage heading into the break.

Luis Alberto then added a third with a well-taken penalty before Felipe Anderson rounded off the scoring as Milan failed to win for a fifth straight game in all competitions.

With Pioli's men remaining 12 points behind Napoli, the Milan head coach believes it is time for less talk and more action from the reigning champions.

"Right now there are many things that are not working, mental and tactical aspects," Pioli told DAZN. "I'm here to talk because I have to, we should shut up and work. I too will try to talk less and work more.

"We have to get back to Milanello [Milan's training ground] quickly to work and work well, we're not playing according to our possibilities.

"Things aren't going well for us, that's for sure. In 20 days we haven't brought home any good performances or results."

With Milan now having conceded eight goals in their past three league matches, as many as in their nine previous Serie A games, Pioli knows his team will have to find a defensive fix, and quick, if they are to somehow claw back Napoli and retain the title.

"The problem right now isn't too much with the ball," Pioli explained. "But without the ball there's no cover and we leave too many spaces.

"We just have to work. The team needs to be more compact, attentive and collaborative. Continuing to make these mistakes means creating even more difficulties in the match.

"We have to go back to playing as we know how and do it as soon as possible. In the last two weeks the performances have not been what we expected and could have done."

Milan's search for a return to form could soon be boosted by the return of veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has missed all of this season with a knee injury but posted a video earlier on Tuesday of him kicking a ball at the club's training ground.

Pioli refused to point to Ibrahimovic's long absence for his team's shortcomings this season, adding: "It's too easy now [to blame Ibrahimovic's injury]. We don't want to have any excuses or justifications.

"I realise that it's a delicate moment for the boys. They will have my support. They will certainly want to be competitive again soon."

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