APPIANO GENTILE – Simone Inzaghi has challenged Inter to carry their form from the end of 2021 into the new year as they prepare for their first game of 2022 against Bologna on Thursday.
The Nerazzurri will be looking to extend their seven-match winning run when they take on Sinisa Mihajlovic's side in a lunchtime kick-off.
Read what the coach had to say ahead of the Week 20 fixture.
Your first match back after a two-week break is against a tricky, well-drilled side. What sort of game are you expecting?
“It's going to be a tough match. Bologna ended 2021 with a deserved 3-0 win at Sassuolo. I know Mihajlovic very well and I know how well he prepares his teams. We're going to need a big performance.”
How are the players looking? The health emergency has come as you enter a crucial month...
“There's a lot of uncertainty which is not good for football and makes it hard to prepare for games properly. We have three positive cases and Bologna have eight. It's up to the authorities. Sinisa and I both know that up until kick-off there's a chance we might have to make last-minute changes. It's really very difficult to prepare properly in circumstances like this. The same goes for the Super Cup: it's up to the authorities and they've decided it should go ahead so we'll play.”
Have you decided who will come in for Edin Dzeko and Hakan Calhanoglu?
“I have an idea in mind but I'll keep it to myself till tomorrow. Besides the three who are Covid-positive we also have Hakan suspended but I have lots of players to choose from. I'll tell the lads the team tomorrow morning.”
Is there perhaps a risk of getting carried away after Inter ended last year on such a high?
“We have to use it to motivate us. Being top at the halfway stage doesn't mean anything. We're happy to be top but we mustn't lose any of our motivation. Everyone we play against will be doing everything possible to make life tough for us.”
What did you make of Romelu Lukaku's recent comments?
“I'd rather not talk about it. I don't know all the details and it's not for me to deal with. All I can say is that Romelu is a magnificent player who had two superb seasons at Inter and we worked very well together for ten days. Now he plays for another team.”
Inter have won seven league games in a row. What are you expecting to see from the team?
“I hope the team can pick up from where we left off before Christmas. We're on an excellent run but we know our next opponents are going to be difficult to beat. The lads are in good shape and have trained well.”
Do you feel under pressure with Inter as favourites? Will any new players be joining in the transfer window?
“People weren't saying we were favourites two months ago; they're saying it now because we're top of the table. We're expecting our president for the Super Cup. [Giuseppe] Marotta, [Piero] Ausilio and [Dario] Baccin are always close to the team and do a great job. We're just focusing on our matches – and there are lots of them.”
Are you happy to have won the Coach of the Month award for December?
“Individual awards are nice because it means my staff and I are doing a good job. But our targets are collective. We want to win trophies and that's what we're working towards.”
When Calhanoglu hasn't played, you've often had Federico Dimarco for free kicks. Will he play tomorrow as well?
"Federico and Hakan play regardless of any set-piece considerations. We have [Marcelo] Brozovic, [Alexis] Sanchez and others who are good from dead-ball situations so it's not a problem.”
No one had Inter down as title favourites at the start of the season whereas now you're everyone's favourites. Are people saying that to put pressure on you?
“We don't feel more pressure because of what people say. We have an excellent team and amazing fans. We dropped a few too many points earlier in the season but our performances have always been good. We have another half of the season ahead. We'll see which team proves themselves the best come the end.”
Is Brozovic going to sign a new contract?
“All I can do is repeat what I've said before: he's a hugely important player for us, he's happy at Inter and I think he'll renew his contract. Marotta and Ausilio are the ones who deal with these things.”
When you were at Lazio, you were a point behind Juventus before the pandemic. Do you think you were closer to winning the Scudetto that year or is it easier to win it this year?
“I've never been good at making predictions. Half a season doesn't count. We have to focus on Bologna: that's all that matters now.”