Stefano Pioli has rejected suggestions Milan are favourites to retain the Serie A title this season, claiming the Rossoneri will struggle to match last campaign's tally of 86 points in a "very competitive" league.

Milan ended an 11-year wait for the Scudetto when they edged out rivals Inter at the end of a fierce title race in May, and began the new campaign with a thrilling 4-2 victory over Udinese last week.

But several sides, including Inter, Juventus, Napoli and Roma – all of whom also started the season with a victory – have been tipped to challenge Milan for their crown, and Pioli expects a difficult fight.

"We have to be an interchangeable team," Pioli said ahead of Sunday's trip to Atalanta.

"It will be such a balanced championship that it will be difficult to score last year's points. Difficulties will come for everyone, even with teams that you don't expect.

"There are seven or eight strong teams, a very balanced and competitive league. One game at a time we must continue on our path and work to become more and more competitive.

"We are strong, here we all have to feel important, but nobody is indispensable. What is indispensable is the mentality and the work. 

"The winner will be whoever is the most consistent in results and performances. You have to play with intensity and quality. 

"Head-to-head matches are important and last year we won precisely because we scored so many points with the big teams."

Milan started both of their previous full Serie A seasons under Pioli with consecutive victories, beating Bologna and Crotone to begin the 2020-21 campaign before overcoming Sampdoria and Cagliari last term, and will be looking to maintain that record in Bergamo on Sunday.

Meanwhile, since clinching the title, Milan have acquired Belgian attackers Charles de Ketelaere and Divock Origi, and Pioli has refused to rule out further activity before the closure of the transfer window.

However, the 56-year-old insists the Rossoneri will only move for the right target, as he revealed Simon Kjaer is closing in on a return after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury last year.

"As for the market, we have the will - if the situation were right - to improve certain situations," he added.

"But the squad is strong, Kjaer is approaching 100 per cent. I repeat, if we find something to improve well [we may be active], otherwise we are already competitive like this."