Antonio Conte warns Inter haven’t completely closed the gap with Juventus and still use them as ‘the reference point’ for success in Serie A, but hints Christian Eriksen’s new role is due to transfer inactivity.
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“It’s going to be a game between two teams with the ambition to fight for something important,” said the coach in his press conference.
“Every match is important and they are always three points up for grabs. Inevitably, Juventus represent a reference point for everyone, as they dominated in Italy in recent years. When a team wants to understand what level it is at, inevitably the only reference point in Italy is Juventus.
“I don’t want to point to favourites, we simply have to respect a side that has dominated for nine years and wants to dominate for another year. Respect is the least we can give Juventus for all they’ve done, especially as in recent years it’s been a foregone conclusion in Serie A.
“We closed the gap on them last season and hope we can do the same, because I remember times when Juve were 20-25 points in front of everyone and that was not good to see.
“No team in Italy can say they completely closed the gap with Juventus, but we’re getting closer. They dominated for nine years and also worked well off the field, bringing in the likes of Federico Chiesa, Alvaro Morata, Dejan Kulusevski and Weston McKennie. They deserve credit for improving every single year.”
Conte of course started that nine-year winning streak in Turin, so where are Inter still lacking?
“We can and must improve our mentality, our determination, feeling the blood boiling to kill the game. That is part of the growth progress and these lads are working hard to improve in every aspect.”
Inter used Eriksen as a deep-lying playmaker in the Coppa Italia against Fiorentina midweek, but when asked if he’d repeat that experiment, Conte again hinted he was forced into it by a lack of funds.
“I am just confirming the facts. We have to make the most of the potential in this squad now. It’s inevitable that we don’t have another player with Marcelo Brozovic’s characteristics who can play in front of the defence. Therefore, we are trying to get the best out of Christian in that role.
“Eriksen has so far played central midfield, as a trequartista and now a playmaker. Having a player who can cover various positions can be useful.”