MILAN – On the eve of Napoli vs. Inter, a fixture that will kick off at 20:45 CEST at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona tomorrow, Antonio Conte held a pre-match press conference. This is what the Nerazzurri Coach had to say:
What kind of game should we expect against Napoli?
“A very challenging game awaits. I always considered Napoli to be among the two or three sides who could compete for the Scudetto until the end because they’ve got a strong squad and an excellent coach in Gattuso.”
How angry would you get if players started making calculations to manage the advantage that Inter have?
“It’s not a question of getting angry but being aware that we need to pick up points to achieve an ambitious goal. We’ll be heading to Naples to try to achieve the maximum – a victory – and this is what Napoli will also be aiming for. We’ll see what the result is at the end of the match. We can’t afford to make calculations because my experience tells me that this is counter-productive.”
How much does the criticism surrounding Inter annoy you?
“I’ve come to understand that it’s all about me, and I’ve come to terms with it. The important thing is they don’t touch Inter.”
Inter have had a perfect record since the second half of the season began. From a technical point of view, is there something that must be avoided from now until the end of the season?
“We can’t afford to think or read too much. We mustn’t fall into the trap of taking the Scudetto for granted because we’re fully aware of the sacrifices we’ve made and the work we’ve done to put ourselves in this position. We need to remain humble and remain aware that there are still some steps to go before we can make our dream come true.”
What are your thoughts on Napoli’s current form and Gattuso’s situation?
“Napoli have a good squad, one of the best in Serie A. I put them among the favourites for the Scudetto at the start of the season. Rino is doing well and is an excellent coach. We all know that it’s been a strange year, and a coach is the first to be criticised when things don’t go well: it’s the most difficult role to be in. If a player asks me for advice on becoming a coach, I tell them that they need a lot of passion because it’s a unique and complicated role. Being passionate about football allows you to look past criticism and feedback which, at times, can be right or less so.”
Lukaku has made great strides forward. Tomorrow, he’ll be up against perhaps the strongest defender in Serie A and someone who could cause him problems physically. What advice will you give to Lukaku?
“We’re talking about a defender who I consider to be among the strongest in the world. I wanted to bring him to Chelsea, he’s a top player and has grown since. Romelu knows him well and has also developed a lot, it’ll be a great duel. However, in order to cause individuals or a whole backline problems, you need to work as a team, make certain movements and find in-game solutions, something which we’ve looked at.”
In modern football, how important is it to have a recognisable system in place?
“I think every team needs an identity and you can provide that if you focus on a specific system. Then, in addition to a playing system, there are principles that you can adapt to different system types. It’s easier to work on a system for players because they recognise it. Then, adjustments can be made both in and out of possession while using that system, but a team must be recognisable in terms of its identity. As far as the principles are concerned, they can be inserted into any system, but the more certain the players are, the easier it is.”
Has Ivan Perisic recovered? How is Vidal doing?
“Ivan trained in full with the group on Thursday, he’s overcome his injury and is available. Vidal is still working separately alongside Kolarov to recover from the knee problem he’s had. As regards Kolarov, we hope to have him back as soon as possible following his back problem.”
Do you agree with the view that Napoli are the team that have caused you the most problems defensively? What has changed since the match against them earlier on in the season?
“During matches, there are times when you’re able to cause the opposition problems and vice-versa. They have a lot of quality up front and players who are good in one-on-one situations and at attacking spaces. They have big names like Osimhen or Lozano, even if the latter is suspended. They’re a strong side, but as good as they are, we need to show that we’re strong too. We’ll show maximum respect as we go there to play. It doesn’t matter which team threatens more, I remember our Coppa Italia match against them where we lost 1-0 but dominated. Then, we were eliminated and Napoli went on to beat Juventus in the final, so compliments to them.”