With just one day left until Inter’s next European clash against Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League quarter-final, kick-off for which is set for 21:00 CEST on Monday 10 August at the Düsseldorf Arena. The match will be a direct knockout tie, with one of the two sides progressing through to the semi-final against either Basel or Shakhtar Donetsk. Here’s what Coach Antonio Conte had to say in response to the journalists’ questions in his pre-match press conference.
There was a lot of talk of gamesmanship ahead of the game against Getafe. Bayer Leverkusen are a more talented side, what does that change for you?
“Every team has their own characteristics. Getafe were an aggressive team and as a result we had to be good at exploiting certain areas. We responded blow by blow and did well to win the game. Leverkusen have different strengths, they’ve got quick players and it will be important not to get hit on the counter. We have to make the most of our own strengths and do the things that we know will cause them problems.”
The Germans are very wary of Lukaku, who’s having the best season of his career. How much satisfaction does it bring seeing a player you wanted so badly putting in these kinds of performances?
“If the team succeeds then so do all of the forwards. An individual’s performances depend on the context of their team. Romelu’s having a great season, but the credit goes to the team. Let’s not forget that Lautaro’s having a great season too, despite often being the focus of various transfer rumours. Sanchez and Esposito have also done well whenever they’ve been called up to the plate. They certainly deserve a lot of credit, but their performances rely on what the team allows them to do. I’m happy that Lukaku’s slotted in well: he’s a great guy and he’s been able to settle in so well thanks to the environment here, this guys in this group have created great chemistry amongst themselves.”
How much belief is there in the dressing room that you can go all the way in the Europa League?
“We need to be positive: we’re working hard towards the ultimate objective. From here on we’ll have to prove on the pitch that we deserve to go all the way. We don’t want to have any regrets, we’ll have to give everything: if everything is enough to get to the semi-finals, final, or even to lift the trophy then we’ll be happy, otherwise we’ll finish up wherever we deserve to finish. I’ll repeat: what’s important is that we don’t have any regrets.”
How do you feel seeing one of your former players, Pirlo, becoming the coach of a big team?
“I’m happy for Andrea: in addition to what he’s given me on the pitch, he’s someone I’m very fond of. However, the fact that the players I’ve coached are now becoming my colleagues... well that means I’m getting older!”
How’s the team doing?
“We’re coming off the back of a lot of games back-to-back, all of which have been played in tough climate conditions. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and desire to play this game and make it through to the semis. I think we’re all trying to work to take Inter back to where the Club deserves to be, to being a side capable of putting silverware in the trophy cabinet.”
Havertz is Bayer Leverkusen’s most talented player...
“Havertz is a player with great qualities: he’s got great technique and he’s got what it takes to have a great career, but let’s hope he doesn’t show that tomorrow."
(Photo Getty Images)