APPIANO GENTILE - The return of Serie A is nearly upon us! Following the end of the international break, Inter will be back in action on Saturday evening when they take on Lazio in Week 8 of Serie A.
Inter beat Sassuolo in their last game before the break to move onto 17 points for the season, four behind leaders Napoli.
Saturday promises to be a special match for Simone Inzaghi, who will be returning to Lazio for the first time since the end of his five-year managerial stint at the club where he also spent a decade during his playing career.
Inzaghi spoke to the media from the Suning Training Centre on Friday to preview the game…
You have a packed run of fixtures now that the international break is over. What does your team need to show during this period?
“We know we have seven matches very close together and we’ll try to be ready for that. We haven’t had many players to work with, but they’ve trained well. The European internationals have returned and there are just a few minor issues there. Now we await the South Americans.”
How have Lazio changed since Maurizio Sarri took over? How much of your team do you still see in them?
“Lazio have produced some very good performances, such as in the derby and in the Europa League. They’re very well-organised and have great individual players, plus a coach who is very good at setting his teams up. They lost their last match, so they’ll be hurting and desperate to perform well.”
When will the South American players get back? Have you ever had players returning so close to a game?
“We had the same thing after the last break, but we played Sampdoria in Genoa on the Sunday. [Alexis] Sanchez and [Arturo] Vidal will miss the trip to Rome – they would have got in at three in the morning so I decided it would be best for them to head back to Milan, where they can prepare for the Champions League match on Tuesday.”
How is Stefano Sensi?
“He’s been training and he’s stepping things up, but he still can’t kick with the affected leg. If he doesn’t recover for Tuesday, we’ll try to have him available for the following match.”
Lautaro Martinez has been in great scoring form for Argentina – can he push through the tiredness? Do you think La Liga made the right decision in postponing the matches involving teams competing in the Champions League?
“I’ll have to speak to Lautaro, [Joaquin] Correa and [Matias] Vecino. They’ll join us in Rome and then we’ll decide the plan of action. La Liga was right to give the teams involved in the Champions League a rest. We’ll grit our teeth – we’ve got several options…”
Lazio have bags of quality. What kind of performance will you need to produce?
“We’ll need to be very good technically. They will press us hard, but we’ve had that before. We need to perform well in every aspect of the game.”
This will be your first return to the Olimpico as an opposition manager since you left Lazio. How are the emotions right now?
“This isn’t just any old game. It’s like a homecoming for me – it really was my home for 22 years. It’ll be a powerful feeling and an unforgettable day. I’ll get to see players that I worked with and that always gave their all, the staff behind the scenes, special people… And the Lazio fans, who were amazing. We celebrated and suffered together and achieved wonderful things. But I know there will be some boos and some applause – that’s part of the job. I accept it all. I know that I always gave my all for the club as a player and as a manager.”
What are you expecting from Claudio Lotito?
“There’s been a lot written, but he and [Igli] Tare were really important figures in my managerial career. They gave me the chance to coach. I’ll always be grateful to them. We worked together well and got some good results.”
You’ve got Lazio, a Champions League game and Juve in your next three. How big a week is this?
“It’s going to be a very demanding week, but the upcoming period as a whole is going to be tough. Let’s take them one at a time.”
How is Denzel Dumfries doing in terms of getting to grips with his position and gelling with his new team-mates?
“I thought it would have taken him longer due to the language barrier. Instead he’s ahead – he’s already played plenty of minutes for us. He’s a regular starter for Holland and was the captain of PSV. He’ll continue to get to grips with things over time and his language skills will improve, so he’ll get better and better.”
If Lautaro and Correa can’t start the game, will you set up with a trequartista behind Edin Dzeko or use Ivan Perisic as the second striker?
“I’ve got options. Dzeko will start and I can play [Martin] Satriano alongside him, but I’ve also got Perisic and [Hakan] Calhanoglu. I’ll have to look at the condition Lautaro and Correa are in and see how they’ve recovered.”
Has Calhanoglu been a bit underwhelming so far?
“I’m really, really pleased with Hakan. He’s an integral part of the project here and he never hides. He picked up a heavy knock against Latvia on international duty on Monday but since then he’s worked really hard to be ready for Saturday. I don’t know whether he’ll start or come off the bench, but I’m really pleased with the contribution he’s made.”
Are you starting to build a connection with Inter and with the black and blue side of Milan?
“I settled in here really well from the start. I really wasn’t expecting the Inter fans to welcome me the way they have. They’ve been brilliant with me and with the players – just look at the away trips we’ve had this season. They’re always there in huge numbers, making their support felt.”