Stefano Pioli says Milan are ready to approach the final eight Serie A games with “energy, strength and motivation” as they battle to end an 11-year title drought.
The Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011, but they are three points clear of second-placed Napoli with seven weeks of the season remaining.
Rivals Inter are six points adrift of Milan – albeit with a game in hand – after faltering before the international break, and the defending champions face a tough Derby d’Italia clash with in-form Juventus on Sunday.
Leaders Milan go into a San Siro meeting with Bologna on Monday looking to extend their unbeaten run to 11 matches in all competitions and secure a fourth consecutive victory.
Head coach Pioli is backing his players to maintain the high standards they have set with so much at stake.
He said: “I know that I have a responsible team and that the boys are aware of how well they are playing right now. They are doing everything possible to keep up the level of football and their focus.
“We can’t let ourselves be influenced by results elsewhere; we need energy for our own games. We don’t want to back out and we’ll approach these final eight games with energy, strength and motivation.”
And Pioli says it is of no importance that the other title contenders will already have played before his side take on Bologna.
He added: “I don’t think that the break will have changed the balance. The schedule is tough for every team because we’re talking about highly motivated teams with a lot of quality. I’m certain that the team is ready both mentally and physically.
“Playing first or after the others? That doesn’t matter. We just need to focus on ourselves and our own performance. Knowing how the teams around us have got on this weekend won’t change how we prepare. It doesn’t matter what the others do, we need to think about what we are doing.”
Asked how he would view Inter’s trip to Juve, the coach said: “I will certainly watch it, but I will be very detached because it matters what we do tomorrow and no longer so much what others do.
“The team doesn’t have to be influenced by today’s [Sunday’s] results. What matters is trying to win our game, and we know how to do it.”
Pioli revealed striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is fit to face Bologna, who Milan have beaten 11 times and drawn with once in the past 12 games between the two clubs.
The Rossoneri boss says Ibrahimovic has a key role to play in Milan’s quest to be crowned champions, whether that be as a starter or off the bench.
He said: “It’s not important whether you start or come on part way through, what matters is making a contribution to the team.
“Ibra will need to help the team – as he always does – to try to get the best out of them. It’s his aim, and he has always done so – it’s his motivation.”