Pioli previews Coppa Italia semi-final with Atalanta

Pioli previews Coppa Italia semi-final with Atalanta

27/02/2019 11:34

Stefano Pioli is expecting a tough test when Atalanta visit the Stadio Artemio Franchi for the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday night – but wants Fiorentina to take control of the tie ahead of the return leg in April.

“We want to try to get an advantage tomorrow to take into the second leg,” said Pioli, speaking in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “We know it’s going to be tough because we’re up against a very good side, but they’re a team that we’ve matched before – both this season and last season.”

Pioli admitted that this year’s Coppa Italia represents a golden opportunity for the Viola to fight for some silverware.

“It’s on our minds but I’m sure that’s the case for all the semi-finalists,” he said. “It’s not happened many times in recent years that the three best teams on paper – Juve, Napoli and Inter – aren’t in the Coppa Italia, so it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us but it is for the other teams too.”

The Viola boss refused to be drawn on suggestions that the cup now represents Fiorentina’s best chance of qualifying for the Europa League next season.

 “It’s always taken around 60 points to qualify for the Europa League through Serie A, so if we want to qualify we need to aim for that amount of points,” he said. “There are still a lot of points to play for and plenty of games, but for now I’ve replaced the points tally objective with the aim of doing well in the Coppa Italia. On Thursday, the league will become our main objective once again.

“For now we focus on the Coppa Italia and on what will be a difficult game. From an attacking perspective, Atalanta create a lot and score lots of goals, but recently they’ve been conceding a few more than usual.”

Atalanta have earned a reputation as a bogey team for many of the big clubs in Serie A in recent years, but Pioli was quick to stress that Fiorentina have their own recent experience of competing at the top end of the league table.

“In the past Fiorentina have played in the Champions League and have fought for years to get back into Europe,” he said. “I think that’s the objective for this new cycle. Obviously, you can’t do it all overnight. Atalanta are a good side and I congratulate Atalanta and Gasperini on the job they’re doing. That said, we’re Fiorentina and we need to aim high.”

Pioli also heaped praise on January loan signing Luis Muriel, who has lit up the Franchi with some stellar performances since making the switch from Sevilla.

“I think [his impact] is clear,” he said. “It’s what I wanted. I’d asked the club for a quality player that could do something special every time he gets the ball. I think we’ve always done well against teams that give us space, but we’ve struggled a bit more with clubs that dig in around their box. That’s where you need individual quality and talent and Luis has that in his locker. He’s certainly bringing us a dimension we didn’t have before.”

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