Rio Ave and the Europa League play-off round, the final step in qualification to the competition's group stage, is just around the corner. Tomorrow, the Rossoneri will take to the pitch in Vila do Conte against the Portuguese side, who managed to beat Beşiktaş on penalties in the previous round. Coach Pioli discussed the upcoming showdown in his pre-match conference, live on the AC Milan Official App.
THE APPROACH TO THE GAME
"We're well accustomed to giving our all, and this always needs to be our approach and mentality. The first two qualifiers have prepared us well, but the same goes for our opponents. We need to be respectful of them but also aware of our own qualities. This game should be an opportunity to grow, in the face of a team that won their first two qualifiers away from home. They're very technical; we'll need to perform to a high level."
ANALYSIS OF RIO AVE
"They're definitely a team that likes to dominate a game. We need to avoid this, be compact and aggressive to recover the ball and also aware of when to press and when to sit in. It's a big game, we're trying to achieve our first big aim of the season. We want to reach the group stage and to do so we need to win tomorrow evening against a side, which is stronger than the ones we've already faced."
THE ATTACK FOR TOMORROW
"Who starts up top will depend on how we want to play. I'm happy that Leão is available but he's only been training with us for five or six days. He's available, but only for a short period in the game. Last year, I think Rafa assimilated into a new way of playing and a new environment; I expect a lot from him, because I know he can give us a lot."
"The defence is doing well. Playing together often helps them to get to know each other even more. We'll need the whole team to be compact tomorrow."
"I hope that I won't need to use Kessie as a central defender. It would be a stopgap if we're missing one of our two centre-backs. And I hope it's not necessary. Franck Kessie is always a positive guy; he concentrates and is ready to help his teammates out of trouble. Díaz has been taking up some good positions on the field. He can do a bit better in terms of intensity but - during training as well - he's improving a lot. He has quality and he can, and must, show it."
RETURNEES FROM INJURY
"Romagnoli is on his way back, he'll be able to train with us once we're back from Portugal. It's important that he works throughout the international break, the same goes for Conti. Musacchio is improving, I don't know if he'll be ready straight away after the break."
SAYING GOODBYE TO PAQUETÁ
"Thanks to Lucas, because he's always been available. He's never lacked for passion and availability. Good luck to him; he's still a good player."
AC MILAN IN CUP COMPETITIONS
"Having pressure on us is normal. The name AC Milan carries more weight, but having expectations is a privilege. It means we're back at a certain level."
THE GROUP'S GROWTH
"The group is taking on a leading role, not just individuals. There's a desire to come together and be satisfied and happy together. Ibra won't be playing but he's always a part of the group, in everything and for everything. He's driving his teammates on."
(Photo Getty Images)