APPIANO GENTILE - Andrea Stramaccioni held his traditional pre-match press conference in Appiano today, the day before Inter take on Catania at the Stadio Angelo Massimino. He began with an analysis of tomorrow's opponents, considered by many as this season's surprise package. "Maran and his team have done an extraordinary job, they've been incredible. Tomorrow's game is basically a six-pointer and they've achieved some excellent results at home, beating Lazio, Fiorentina and Roma, and drawing with Napoli. Traditionally it's a tough ground for Inter - for anyone - to go to, but we're psyched up for it after a rare full week to prepare."
Following this morning's story in La Gazzetta dello Sport about a falling-out between the Nerazzurri coach and Antonio Cassano, there were inevitably some questions about the striker's exclusion from the squad for tomorrow's game. Stramaccioni explained: "It's my decision and no, he hasn't been suspended. What happened yesterday is nothing out of the ordinary, it was just an argument. The people who reported it don't have Inter's best interests at heart because things like that should be kept within the dressing room. It was just an argument; there was no physical contact. I am annoyed that it's been reported publicly because what goes on in the dressing room is sacred. I might have seen 30,000 similar situations before now. Besides anything else, Cassano is one of the players who has played more than most over the last seven matches. It's simply a decision I've taken and I don't want this to turn into a press conference about Cassano now."
Stramaccioni was then pressed to be more specific about his reasons for leaving the player out. "I'll reply by telling you the facts: if he had been suspended then he wouldn't have trained today. It's my choice not to include him in the squad but on Monday he'll train with us as normal and, touch wood, if nothing happens to him between now and Thursday he'll be among the 18 in London."
Stramaccioni also spoke about Tommaso Rocchi. "He's at a disadvantage because he's not in our Europa League squad. We had to make some very difficult choices and no one imagined Diego would get injured. He hasn't been properly fit over the last few games, we knew that, but he played against Udinese and in the Coppa Italia. Now that he's fit again he'll feature a lot in the league between now and the end of the season."
So will we see Inter's January signings in action tomorrow? "For different reasons Kuzmanovic and Schelotto, as well as Rocchi, aren't in our Europa League squad and I'll use them tomorrow, be it from the start or from the bench. But they've all shown they're capable of being a success here."
On Fredy Guarin: "His ideal position is in a midfield three, because he can unleash his power and his shot. I've played him further forward because without Milito our forward line has lost a big player, so I've tried to retain something resembling a front three. The last two games have been an exception because we didn't have any time to work and he was forced to play in a four-man midfield. We found it tough against AC Milan but that wasn't his fault. Now I can put him back in his favourite position because I have Schelotto and Alvarez who give me other options."