AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli has praised his Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie, calling him a “very important player”.

The 24-year-old put in a terrific shift for Milan that saw them pick up an important 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg.

With the return game to be played at the San Siro, the Kessie will be likely to start once again and the Rossoneri will be hoping for another strong performance from the Elephants midfielder.

Stefano Pioli has admitted that Kessie’s development and versatility has been pleasantly surprising, especially through this new season of 2020-21.

“Franck deserves all the credit, as he worked hard every day. He is mentally very strong, always ready to help his teammates, to do and say the right thing,” said Pioli.

“He has the quality to play in any role and at the end of the game. I moved him up to be a trequartista (playmaker). He is truly becoming a very important player.

“I did that because Brahim Diaz was tired and we wanted to keep forcing Manchester defenders to play under pressure, so he was an imposing figure in that area of the pitch.”

Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United will need Bruno Fernandes to be at his best. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Kessie will hope to be instrumental in leading Milan to victory over their historic European rivals in their quest of securing a place in the quarterfinals of the Europa League when the Red Devils visit Milan on Thursday, 18th March 2021.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to be fit to start for AC Milan against his former club and the Swede will be hoping to leave his mark.

Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek are both back in training for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping to have both of them feature in this must-win game to keep their hopes alive as they come into this 2nd leg as the underdogs.

Anthony Martial has been ruled out with an injury by Solskjaer and with Edinson Cavani not making the trip, Solskjaer’s side are thin in the striker’s role, which will be likely filled in by Mason Greenwood or Marcus Rashford.

Who will go through to the quarterfinals of this big titans clash? One thing is for certain, however.

One of the favourites of the competition is going to bow out and will make the other teams pleased that they have to potentially face off against 1 less tough opposition.