Antonio Conte is not sure Romelu Lukaku will start for Inter, but sent a strong message to “stupid, vulgar” Juventus fans who want to cancel his legacy. “I’ve struggled with this since coming back to Italy.”
It kicks off on Sunday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT), click here for a match preview.
“I expect a game between two sides who are currently at the top of the Serie A table,” said Conte in his Press conference.
“These are the teams who so far have done better than the others, but we are still only in Week 7. The real values of the clubs will emerge over time, which is why I always say we’ll work out our ambitions later on and see what role we can have in this campaign.
“What we can be sure of is that this is the Derby d’Italia, a big game that everyone wants to watch. We must have desire, enthusiasm and the courage to play this type of match.
“Every game is another step in the journey and the growth process, including the defeat at Barcelona, because we evaluate what we did right and what needs to change.”
It is the first time that Conte will face Juventus since he left the club in 2014 and he does it on the bench of their arch-rivals.
“We are up against a side that has set the standard in Serie A for many years and also done well in Europe. The credit goes to those who worked there over the years and created a real flagship team. They worked well and set the example for others, that is beyond doubt.”
Romelu Lukaku requires a fitness test after missing the 2-1 Champions League loss at Camp Nou, but Alexis Sanchez is suspended.
“I hope to be able to count on more players once the break for international duty arrives and we end this initial run of games. It is important for a side like Inter in Serie A, the Champions League and Coppa Italia to get everyone involved. Lukaku will play if he can give me the right guarantees on his fitness, otherwise someone else will start.
“We arrive for this match with the right enthusiasm after a good performance in Barcelona. We have radically changed this team from previous years and while everyone talks about the players who came in, they forget that those who left were pillars of the Inter squad.
“Many of our players are young and lacking experience in big games like this. They have to improve in terms of tactics, physicality and self-confidence. It’ll take time, but we are working day and night to get this car going at 200km/h. That you can be certain of.
“The term ‘winning’ is often bandied about and misused, but few know what it really means. I was asked to come here to bring a certain mentality and it’s a pleasure to work with these lads, regardless of the result.
“We have some very good players who with hard work can become top players. My job is to help every single player improve, because that will raise the level of the team and our ambitions going forward. That is fundamental.”
Conte was furious after the Barcelona defeat, complaining the referee had favoured the hosts, so does he fear the same situation against Juventus?
“Absolutely not. Let’s not get these things mixed up. I was the first to say after the Barcelona game that the refereeing decisions must not be seen as alibis. I was unhappy with the approach from the start, but if you think you’ll find an excuse from me, you are light years away.
“If Barcelona won, it’s because they did better. We made entirely avoidable errors and have to build on the positives from that game. The best always wins, regardless of the incidents.
“The problem at Camp Nou is that in the first half, we defended by moving forward, whereas in the second half we went backwards. That is something we need to work on, to keep pressure on the ball at all times.
“Juventus are accustomed to winning and have players in the squad who already have silverware, so the foundations are already there. Juve do not transform every year, they add. At the same time, the other teams did the opposite, which created a large gap behind the Bianconeri.
“We are just starting out, but the aim is to follow that journey.”
Conte was asked about the petition, signed by over 15,000 Juventus fans, to have his star removed from the Allianz Stadium Walk of Fame, a proposal already rejected by President Andrea Agnelli.
“I’m disappointed that he had to intervene, because it just gave publicity to a vulgar proposition. It gave room to a move that showed ignorance, lacking values and education. I didn’t even want to discuss this, but you in the media are giving a spotlight to these stupid and ignorant people,” replied Conte.
“Those are not fans, they are ignorant. I gave a message to the fans 10 days ago. We are fortunate to be involved in the best sport in the world and must set the example, pass on positive values and be enthusiastic about playing football. This is sport, not war. Sometimes people forget that.
“It is a sport that should reflect positive human values, not hate and violence. If that’s not the case, then I am the first to walk away. Nobody makes me work as a Coach.
“It’s increasingly difficult, because society nowadays highlights hatred and violence. I’ve honestly struggled since I came back to Italy from England. I see situations and wonder why I am even doing this.
“As long as my passion for this sport surpasses these issues, then I will continue. If my passion drops, I will be the first to say it’s time to call it quits. It won’t be a big loss for football, but it won’t be a loss for me either.”
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £11.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://subscribe.premiersports.tv/