Pioli says top four remains the target for youthful AC Milan

ROME (Reuters) – Qualifying for next season’s Champions League remains AC Milan’s main focus even though they are also in the running to secure the Serie A title for the first time in a decade following a 2-1 win at AS Roma on Sunday, coach Stefano Pioli said.

The Rossoneri topped the league standings until two weeks ago, and Sunday’s thrilling win in Rome made sure the gap with Inter, who lead by four points, did not get any wider.

Pioli suggested that moving eight points clear of Roma in fifth place could be more significant for his side in the final few months of the season.

“If you said a few months ago that we would be second in the table, nobody would have believed it,” he told Sky Italia.

“If we instead had 40 points, they would have said that we were having a great season, fighting for the Champions League after all these years.

“There are seven very strong teams, in the end only four will be happy and we hope to be one of them.”

Milan have not featured in the Champions League since the 2013/14 season, and Pioli was keen to point out the progress made by his team.

“We’re doing something important; we have 17 more points than we did last season, we’re the youngest team and the team that has played the most games,” he said.

“It was a performance of great spirit and quality, I’m really satisfied that we’ve managed to win.”

Roma remain fifth and the defeat continued a poor run for coach Paulo Fonseca against fellow top-seven sides.

He has earned just three points from a possible 24 this season in games against Milan, Inter, Juventus, Lazio, Atalanta and Napoli.

“We got the first 20 minutes wrong. We didn’t start well and against Milan that means it becomes difficult,” he said.

“We got back into the game and played well. It’s true that we started badly, and the chances created by Milan were mostly from turnovers we gave away.”

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Pritha Sarkar)