APPIANO GENTILE – Simone Inzaghi has held his pre-match press conference ahead of Inter’s Serie A curtain raiser against Genoa on Saturday, part of Week 1 of Serie A 2021/22.
There will be over 25,000 spectators at the stadium to support the reigning Champions of Italy, with Inzaghi set to take charge of Inter in a competitive fixture for the very first time.
How are you feeling ahead of the opening day?
“Tomorrow is bound to be a special moment for me and for the players. It’ll be emotional to see the fans again after a year and a half, when we’ve been playing a different kind of football, in empty stadiums. I can’t wait, but five minutes after the whistle goes that emotion will pass.”
What are you most looking forward to seeing from your team?
“We have a tricky game against a team with a very experienced coach, who coached me. [Davide] Ballardini always gets the best out of his teams. We need to carry on doing what we’ve been doing over the past 45 days. I hope to see that on the pitch tomorrow, from the first minute until the last.”
As the reigning champions, what is this team’s ambition this season?
“In my opinion, Inter’s objectives are certainly ambitious. I don’t like making grand statements, but the players’ motivation will make all the difference and over the course of pre-season they’ve shown me that they have that in abundance. I’m confident.”
What’s your message for the fans?
“We’ll do everything we can to make sure things go well. There are obviously going to be challenges this season, but all of us are focused on the Genoa game. There’s a great relationship with the club. We’re still a bit short as a team, but so far I’m pleased with the players that have arrived. We know there have been some enforced departures, such as [Achraf] Hakimi and unexpectedly [Romelu] Lukaku, as well as [Christian] Eriksen’s problem. [Edin] Dzeko is a player I would have asked for regardless of the Lukaku situation. [Denzel] Dumfries will need to settle in. We all know [Hakan] Calhanoglu, and [Federico] Dimarco is coming off the back of two seasons at Verona, where he’s done well. We’ll step us as champions and try to do the best we possibly can.”
You have a difficult task ahead…
“The day I accepted the offer to come here, I knew it was going to be a big challenge. The fans and the club are united – we’ve had to face up to significant sales for the good of the club. Now we’re all united – myself, the coaching staff, the directors, everyone – and we know that our motivation is what will make the difference.”
You’ve faced off against Dzeko many times as an opponent, but now he’s part of your squad. What can you tell us about him and how does he change this Inter team?
“I’ve faced Edin many times over the last few seasons and now I’m pleased to be able to work with him. I asked for him specifically because he’s a complete player – he manages that whole area of the pitch on his own. We know we’re going to be without Lautaro [Martinez] and [Alexis] Sanchez tomorrow, but in the next few days we’ll bring another player in to complete the forward line. We have [Martin] Satriano and [Andrea] Pinamonti as options, while [Stefano] Sensi and Calhanoglu can play close to the strikers too.”
Do Inter start the season as favourites?
“I think it’s premature to talk about favourites. There are seven very well-equipped teams, so now is not the time to make predictions or statements. Inter will certainly be ambitious and have motivation to burn – we’ll do our best to defend the title.”
How important is it to get points on the board early?
“Very important. We have a decent start but tomorrow’s game will be anything but easy. A lot will depend on us. Genoa are very well-organised and will make life hard for us.”
Many people are saying that Juventus are the favourites this year.
“It’s normal for people from the outside to say that other teams are favourites over us. We’re focusing on ourselves – our ambition, our team spirit. That’s what I’ve seen in the friendlies and in training, which is why I’m happy and confident.”
What kind of striker are you going to bring in?
“I’m talking to the directors every day, but right now we’re focusing solely on Genoa. After that, and only after that, we’ll think about the transfer market.”
How did Lukaku’s departure play out?
“It was an expected departure that we hadn’t planned for. Naturally I, [Beppe] Marotta and [Piero] Ausilio tried to convince him [to stay]. During the week I trained him for, I saw why he’s so decisive and popular. When he made his mind up, he came and spoke to me very sincerely to tell me that Chelsea was his dream. We spoke about it, but the lad had made his mind up. Through Dzeko, and another signing, we’ll cover his departure.”