APPIANO GENTILE – Derby number 174 is on the horizon for Inter, who are preparing to face Pioli’s AC Milan at 15:00 CET tomorrow. Ahead of the showdown, Antonio Conte held a press conference, with the Nerazzurri Coach starting off by remembering Mauro Bellugi.
"When we were on the pitch, we heard about Mauro Bellugi. We’re all deeply saddened to learn of his passing and join his family in mourning."
What kind of Derby are you expecting?
"It’s a different Derby compared to the ones that have been played in recent years because the teams are fighting it out at the top of the table. It’s great for the city of Milan to have matches like this where there’s a lot at stake. We need to win because it’s a Derby and because of the current situation in the league."
Inter moved ahead of AC Milan last week, how has that been beneficial in terms of preparing for the match?
"It’s given us a sense of calm. We always need to work with the right enthusiasm, strength and determination. When the table is like this, you need to be even more fired up and have more enthusiasm and desire to do well."
What’s the most important message that you’ve conveyed to the team?
"The message I’ve given to the team is the same as every week: to give their all and work well in the pursuit of excellence. We are working to build something important. This match will be against a strong side that deserves its position in the table. We’ll need to produce a great performance tomorrow."
Will it be a tense affair given what’s at stake?
"It’s going to be a match with two teams trying to win and get the better of one other. An excellent referee has been assigned to the game. Let’s not forget that it’s football and this remains a sport. Although it’s an important match, I can’t see why there will be situations that could harm the team."
How do you solve the problem of Ibrahimovic, who has always found the net in recent Derbies?
"You solve it by working as a team and trying to reduce mistakes to a minimum. He’s a player that is doing very well for AC Milan. He scored in the previous Derby matches, but this doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll do so again. The most important thing for us is to give our all and win this Derby."
Can going a week without matches provide advantages?
"We’ve played every three days until now: we had a Coppa Italia semi-final over two legs with Juventus and played in Florence a couple of days later. The only thing that matters is what happens on the pitch, and we need to do well and remain focused in this regard. Not playing on Tuesday or Wednesday will only make us work harder."
Could Eriksen take centre stage, as was the case in the Coppa Italia?
"I still have some doubts about tomorrow. Christian has improved, we’ve worked with him in training and will continue to do so. He’s made progress and this is good for Christian, the team, Inter and the fans."
The league is even. Could tomorrow provide an opportunity for Inter to stamp their authority somewhat?
"16 matches remain, it’s a difficult league to predict with things changing every Sunday. People’s views from a while back have now changed, and this reflects the difficulty of a league where you have to fight to win every game. After AC Milan, we’ll be coming up against a Genoa side enjoying a great run. Naturally, every victory improves confidence and morale and gives you more belief. This is the most important thing."
The Derby is keenly felt by the fans. Do you have a message for them?
"We’ll give absolutely everything for these colours and the Club’s history, as we’ve always done. We’ll do everything because the fans are always proud of our commitment and sacrificial spirit."
Skriniar has come on leaps and bounds. What kind of work has gone into this?
"Skriniar is doing very well, as is the whole of the backline: there’s a good understanding. Everyone who’s been called upon has responded well, and this is where our strength lies. The competition for places has resulted in everyone improving, including Skriniar. Inter’s fortunes depend on individuals becoming better players because this raises the level of the team and makes us competitive."
Against Lazio, Inter were happy for Lazio to have the ball. Is this a sign of maturity?
"We were clinical but also got our final ball wrong three or four times. Heading into matches, you need to study certain situations and recognise where you can strike and do damage. We did well to beat Lazio and winning in this fashion has given us confidence. We’ve worked on what we can do against AC Milan and know the difficulties that they can create for us and the problems we can cause them. We need to do everything correctly."
Would you be happy to send Lukaku to the Sanremo Music Festival?
"We need to do our singing at San Siro first…"