Stefano Pioli insisted “nobody is perfect or unbeatable” as Milan prepare to overthrow Napoli in the all-Italian Champions League quarter-final clash.
Milan and Napoli will meet for the first time in European competition on April 12 in the first leg at San Siro, with Luciano Spalletti’s side flying high in Serie A and UEFA’s top club competition.
The Partenopei are 19 points clear at the Italian top-flight summit and suggested by many as a potential challenger for the European crown.
But Milan have only lost one of their nine all-Italian showdowns in Europe (W4 D4) and Pioli sees no reason why the Rossoneri cannot dream of progressing past Spalletti’s in-form side.
The Milan coach said: “Honestly, I’d rather not meet an Italian side. In the Champions League it’s better to face a foreign club. Napoli are very strong but we want to play for it.
“They have shown great consistency, strength and quality, they have all the characteristics of a great team, but nobody is perfect or unbeatable.”
Real Madrid vs Chelsea
Benfica vs Inter
Man City vs Bayern
Milan vs Napoli
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 17, 2023
Pioli’s side have not reached the last eight in the Champions League since the 2011-12 term when they were eliminated by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Milan last went beyond that stage in the 2006-07 season en route to lifting the trophy but overcoming Napoli will prove an incredibly difficult challenge.
Napoli have won each of their past three away matches against the Rossoneri, their best such run against them, although they have not triumphed in any of their past five trips to Milan in cup competitions.
Pioli wants to build on Milan’s Champions League history but says the Rossoneri cannot take their eyes off the Serie A top-four battle, leading fifth-placed Roma by just a point.
“It’s part of the history of this club and the path it has always followed,” he added. “We are beginning to write our history, that of Milan in the Champions League is a different path from ours.
“When you go to San Siro to play the Champions League it is something exciting and spectacular that involves everyone.
“We are very busy but we are also focusing on the league. To make this season a positive one, we have to play in the Champions League next year. We have to be careful.”
Before the mouthwatering European meeting, Milan visit Napoli in Serie A on Sunday with the Rossoneri’s Scudetto soon seemingly heading for Naples.
Pioli’s side have been unable to replicate their exploits from last season’s title-winning campaign, though the Italian suggested Milan’s young side would always struggle to defend their title.
“I don’t think there are many teams in Europe that immediately win the second league,” he continued. “We won with a very young team, thanks to a project and a club path we are proud of.
“We are one of the few clubs with a sustainable project; only a few teams manage to win and be competitive in Europe.
“That is a leap that we have not yet been able to make but this year too gives us the opportunity to understand great things, to improve and be the strongest club.”