Ibrahimovic raring to go for 'spectacular' Milan derby, says Pioli

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates a goal for AC Milan Source: Getty Images

Milan boss Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic is raring to go after recovering from coronavirus ahead of what he believes will be a "spectacular" derby against city rivals Inter.

Ibrahimovic tested positive for COVID-19 on September 24, three days after he had scored a Serie A double in the 3-0 win over Bologna.

Milan confirmed last week the striker was clear of the virus after having two negative tests, allowing him to leave a period of self-isolation that had caused him to miss four matches.

That put the 39-year-old in contention to play at least some part in Sunday's (AEDT) crunch Serie A clash, with the two Milan clubs looking as good as they have done for many years.

"Zlatan has been smiling and is in a positive and determined frame of mind," Pioli told reporters as Milan look to win their opening four league games for the first time since 1995 under Fabio Capello.

"He has only been training for a week but is feeling fine. He had a problem, but I have found him to be the same as always.

"He is ready to play, but we still need to assess how many minutes he has got in his legs.

"Our start to the season with three league wins and going through in Europe was important and what I hoped for - now Zlatan's return is an additional boost going into the derby."

Milan are unbeaten since March – a run of 19 games in all competitions – while Inter are two points behind them after finishing second and reaching the Europa League final in Antonio Conte's first season.

Except for Atalanta (56), Milan (54) and Inter (47) are the two teams who have gained the most points in the Serie A in 2020. 

Pioli added: "I am expecting a spectacular game. We will be facing a side with a system that sees players occupy precise positions on the pitch. 

"Inter are very strong, but, like all teams, also have weaknesses. We need to remain composed and understand when it is necessary to press and when we need to bide our time. 

"We will be intense and will not hold off. This will also apply to them but we have our own identity and way of playing out on the pitch.

"For us, the tests never stop: we know that this will be an important and difficult test, but we have prepared well in the little time we had available and feel ready."

Inter only finished one point behind champions Juventus last season, with Conte now looking to become the first Inter coach ever to win their first three Milan derbies.

Pioli added: "Unfortunately, there won’t be a crowd, but we’ll take to the pitch aware of the importance of this match and what it means. We feel the rivalry and it will be a heartfelt match.

"Our journey began a year ago, but I can also say that we’re still in the early stages. We still have plenty of room for improvement and will be facing the side everyone is tipping to win the title.

"But we are going to take to the pitch with the objective to be better than them. They are doing well, so beating such a strong side would give us enthusiasm and even more confidence in the qualities we have."

Source Omnisport