Fikayo Tomori believes AC Milan can close the 8 point gap on Serie A leaders Napoli once the season resumes. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

Dubai: AC Milan centre back Fikayo Tomori is looking forward to playing against Liverpool this Friday night in the Dubai Super Cup following a commanding display earlier in the tournament against Arsenal.

The two sides clashed at the Al Maktoum Stadium on Tuesday with the former Chelsea man popping up with a brilliant headed goal in the second half as the Italian champions battled the Premier League leaders in a thrilling encounter.

Milan, currently eight points adrift of Serie A leaders Napoli, may have lost 2-1 but Tomori says the result was not important. “It was a good game for us and a good test. We didn’t win, but overall we got what we wanted out of the game in terms of fitness. There are things where we can improve but it was nice to be out there.”

Tomori believes the 10-day camp in Dubai will help the team when the domestic campaign resumes when the World Cup in Qatar ends.

New contract

The 24-year-old, who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Italian giants until 2027, says it is important to get some competitive action while the league is on hold. But with the Rossoneri back on the domestic front on January 4th 2023 against Salernitana, Tomori believes the warm-weather training in the UAE will stand the team in good stead. “The weather is a lot better here than in Milan so it makes things a little easier. We have been training hard, we have been treated really well but we are focused on the match against Salernitana and we want to be 100 per cent ready for that game. Players are back at different times with the World Cup so that has affected preparations but we will be ready.”

Tomori, who first had a loan spell with Milan before agreeing a permanent deal has been very impressed with the facilities in Dubai and can see why all of the top teams and players want to come here. “It’s world class. This is the best environment that we could be in for warm-weather training and to prepare for the season ahead. We are really happy to be here, we are enjoying it and hopefully the hard work we are putting in in training will pay off in the matches.”

The game against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Friday will afford Tomori and co a different test to the one they faced against Arsenal and the defender believes this will be good for the team. “They are a good team, they have a different style to Arsenal in terms of how they press, the way they attack. It will be a chance for us to try new things and see how we adapt to different situations with the key being getting fit for the resumption of the Serie A season.”

Napoli have been playing very and not only are they eight points ahead of the reigning champions, they are unbeaten too. But Tomori, who also had loan spells with Derby and Hull believes Milan can pull them back. “We know we haven’t played at our maximum yet, we have dropped points where we shouldn’t have and drawn matches we should have won. Ironing out these little kind of things will help us for the rest of the season. It is a long season still, we haven’t even played half the games. We are focused on ourselves. We have to get back to our level and take it game by game.”

The England international has been watching the World Cup closely and was proud of the team’s achievements. Having made his debut for the Three Lions against Kosovo in 2018 and going on to win three caps, Tomori says he was disappointed he wasn’t selected for Qatar. But he says he plans to focus on his game and do what he can to get back in the team. “I have to stay focused and improve on the things I know I need to improve on and try my best to be selected again. It has been a time for reflection, to look at my game, the mental aspect, physical, technical, tactical, all those aspects in my game and try to improve.”

Stand down

Following England’s elimination against France in the last eight, many have been calling for coach Gareth Southgate to stand down. But Tomori has mixed feelings for the man who gave him his first call-up. “I have a lot of respect for him. The last three tournaments we have got to the semi-final, final and now the quarter-final. I think there is a good feeling and atmosphere inside the national team and with the media and the country has grown so much closer since Russia 2018 and a lot of that is down to Gareth Southgate. He has done such a good job but what happens in the future I don’t know but I think us as players and me personally I am just trying to do the best I can on the pitch and whatever happens will happen.”

Argentina were most people’s favourites to go all the way and with Lionel Messi in blistering form, Tomori believes they can win it. “He has already said this is the last time he will play for Argentina. It would be great if he did it.”