AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli said on Monday he did not expect February’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League last 16 to be easy but added the Premier League rivals were an even match for the Serie A champions.
The pair were pulled out of the hat in the Champions League last 16 draw in Nyon, Switzerland.
Milan crushed Salzburg 4-0 earlier in November to reach the Champions League knockout stages, set to take place in February and March, for the first time since 2013-14.
“You cannot expect to find easy rivals in the last 16, but we will do our best to prepare: they will be exciting rivals,” Pioli said ahead of Tuesday’s clash at relegation-threatened Cremonese in Serie A.
“Tottenham are very compact and organised with really strong individuals… with many (players) who know Milan and Italian soccer. In theory, I think it could be a balanced clash.”
Pioli praised rival boss Antonio Conte for giving Spurs a clear identity and great mentality.
“Difficult matches, against a strong rival, trained by a great manager who knows us well,” he said.
Pioli added it was important to end the part of the season before the World Cup break in the best way possible. Milan is second in Serie A but trail leader Napoli by six points.
“(Cremonese) will be very determined, but we also need to be like that… I expected a balanced campaign but it is unthinkable though with a team like Napoli,” he said.