Titles aren’t won in December, Milan coach Pioli tells Inter

It is too soon to say reigning champions Inter Milan have broken clear in the Serie A title race, AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli said on Saturday as he challenged his players to beat last season’s midway points total by winning their next two games.

The Rossoneri face Napoli at San Siro on Sunday in a key clash for the Scudetto race, with second-placed Milan on 39 points, four behind rivals Inter who have played a game more, and three ahead of the visitors in fourth.

Pioliโ€™s side was crowned โ€˜winter championsโ€™ last season, the name given to the top side at the halfway stage of the campaign, but the Milan coach is aiming for an even better points haul this time around.

โ€œWe are having a great first half of the season, but there are still two games to go. I would like it a lot if we could beat the 43 points we had at this stage last season,โ€ Pioli told a news conference.

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โ€œBut the team we face tomorrow has a lot of quality and a great coach (Luciano Spalletti), so we need to raise the level of our performance.โ€

Milan and Napoli were the early pacesetters but have stuttered in recent weeks, with the Rossoneri picking up two wins in their last six league games and Napoli one win in five.

That slump has allowed champions Inter to take over at the top, and the Nerazzurri put pressure on their city rivals by hammering Salernitana 5-0 on Friday.

โ€œI donโ€™t think you can say Inter have broken away, you donโ€™t win league titles in December,โ€ Pioli said. “Last season we were on top for a long time, then we know how it ended.”

“We started this year brilliantly by winning all our games, now they (Inter) are doing that. But we are not in a race against anyone, only ourselves,” he added.

โ€œThe last two performances werenโ€™t the best, and the team knows that. Tomorrow we need to show all our quality, with strength and determination.โ€

Milan was held 1-1 at lowly Udinese in their last Serie A outing after going out of European competition by losing 2-1 at home to a second-string Liverpool side in the Champions League.ย 

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