Pioli explains Zlatan boost ahead of Milan derby

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The San Siro battle on Monday (AEDT) comes too soon for Ibrahimovic to make an impact on the pitch but the 41-year-old striker is back in the fold, close to returning from the knee surgery he underwent in May.

It was envisaged he would be absent for eight months and Milan has given the veteran all the time he needs.

Head coach Stefano Pioli believes having Ibrahimovic around the squad can only be a positive as the reigning champion bids to recover from a drastic dip in form.

Milan has lost three games in a row, including a Supercoppa Italiana final 3-0 thumping by Inter, and is without a win in its past six.

Discussing the return of the charismatic Ibrahimovic, who is a former Inter player, Pioli said: "He has always been fundamental for this team.

"On Friday he resumed training with us, even if to a small extent.

"Unfortunately, the two games against Tottenham [in the Champions League] come too soon, and right now we don't know when he will be at 100 per cent.

"I hope with all my heart he can come back soon, especially for what he's doing.

"Few people would do what he's doing to come back from such a difficult and complicated injury.

"Has he talked to his team-mates? I think so, he knows how to strike the right chords."

Pioli's team is 15 points behind leader Napoli and entered the weekend in fifth place, albeit only two points behind second-placed Inter, so there is all to play for.

"It will be a great opportunity for us and we must do everything to seize it," Pioli said.DARMIAN SIGNS NEW INTER CONTRACT

"Inter come into the match in excellent form, but we have a great desire to start again."



Since the Supercoppa loss in mid January, Milan has been beaten 4-0 at Lazio and 5-2 at home by lowly Sassuolo, putting its top-four prospects in unexpected peril.

Inter will fancy piling on more misery but Pioli said: "We have not lost the spirit that has always distinguished us. We must go back to showing it."

Milan is determined to get back into the top four and secure another Champions League campaign but Pioli warned: "It shouldn't be taken for granted.

"We have to win many games from here until the end to get as high as possible."