Ibrahimovic ready for derby after COVID-19 infection

·2-min read
Europa League - Second Qualifying Round - Shamrock Rovers v AC Milan
Europa League - Second Qualifying Round - Shamrock Rovers v AC Milan

(Reuters) - AC Milan's veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is smiling, determined and ready to face Inter Milan in Saturday's derby after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, coach Stefano Pioli said Friday.

The 39-year-old's presence, even for part of the game, would be a big boost for Milan, who have won their first three Serie A games of the season without conceding a goal and are unbeaten in 19 matches in all competitions.

"Zlatan has been smiling and is in a positive and determined frame of mind," Pioli told reporters. "He's only been training for a week but is feeling fine. He's ready to play, but we still need to assess how many minutes he's got in his legs."

One of Europe's most charismatic players, the Swede - who tested positive on Sept. 25 and remained asymptomatic -- has scored 14 goals in 22 matches since returning for a second stint at Milan in January, helping revive his team.

Pioli has just completed a year in charge of Milan although he had a rough start and at one stage seemed unlikely to complete last season.

"Our journey began a year ago, but I can also say that we're still in the early stages: we still have plenty of room for improvement," he said. "Beating such a strong side would give us enthusiasm and even more confidence in the qualities we have."

He added that Milan, who have lost their last four meetings with Inter, had learned from their 4-2 defeat in February.

"We drew many lessons from it, while we also proved that we can match them," he said. "At the same time, we also learned that all it takes is a moment of carelessness to be punished. Since that match, we’ve grown a lot."

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)