BAKU – After landing in Baku in the afternoon, Inter’s adventure in Azerbaijan
began with a press conference at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium on the eve of the
match against Neftchi, their second match in Group H of the UEFA Europa League.
Andrea Stramaccioni met with Azerbaijani and Italian journalists at the
conference and started by explaining just how important tomorrow’s game is:
"For us it’s very important because, not having won the first match,
tomorrow’s could allow us to be in a favourable position in our group. A
victory tomorrow means the possibility of moving to the top."
The Nerazzurri coach continued: "Through my colleagues and scouts I’ve
tried to study Neftchi the best I can. So far they’ve shown themselves to be a
very compact team with little variation to their basic formation. They play a
very organised game and their four attacking players are the most dangerous
ones, especially for a team like ours. They showed their strength in the match
against Partizan and they were always dangerous with these players."
Some players (Milito, Samuel, Zanetti and Cassano) were rested for this Europa
League trip ahead of next Sunday’s derby. Stramaccioni explained his decision:
"The decision I have made was a very simple one; the players who stayed in
Milan are the ones who have played 5 games in 10 days and for tomorrow’s game I
want to field the most lively and in condition team that I can. To do this I
have to take advantage of the characteristics of my players and manage the
squad. I saw some players with heavy legs from so much playing, and so it was
better to leave them home."
But this is not because Neftchi are being underestimated: "I have
tremendous respect for this team, which we’ve followed with the same attention
we pay to all of our opponents. They showed themselves to be very strong in
their two matches against Apoel and – I repeat – I think that with respect to
us, our opponents have an advantage: a very well-tested starting eleven. And
again, the players in Milan are there not because we don’t believe this game is
important, but because they were tired from too many consecutive games."
Europa League, Serie A, Coppa Italia: when focusing on these competitions which one is of the least importance to Inter? "I think a club like Inter must have the goal of going far in all three of these competitions during the season. To play and try to win them all. But I also know that this can’t happen if you don’t use all the players in your squad the best you possibly can. I don’t think there’s a ranking of importance in these goals. We want to try to do well in all these competitions, at least now while it’s still October," continued Stramaccioni.
Neftchi tomorrow, AC Milan on Sunday. How high will the Nerazzurri’s concentration be? "Only tomorrow’s match will be able to tell you that. I chose to go with a team that comes here with great motivation and this – using players who have seen less playing time, for reasons of choice or condition – will create a highly motivated Inter, eager to do well for us in a difficult trip."
Regarding Coutinho, Stramaccioni had nothing but praise: "He looked very good to me. He played a great match on Sunday. He’s grown in terms of taking on responsibilities, as he’s also worked on ball possession." And on Livaja: "We have high expectations for his future. He also showed his potential against Rubin Kazan."
Would it be possible to see Inter fielding a three-man defence tomorrow? Stramaccioni clarified: "I’m convinced, and I’ve already said so and decided on it before making the change, that in relation to the players I have available this is the ideal formation for getting them to best express themselves. Having said that, it could also be that something changes tomorrow.
"Did I expect that the new formation would go so well without Chivu, who was meant to function as a hinge in it? I’m always quite sincere and now I’ll take this opportunity to tell you the truth. We tried to hold on to Maicon until 30 August and obviously with him the defence could have had a different balance. Once he was no longer with us, and to capitalise on the quality of the central defenders – all 5 of whom are very good – it would have been possible to give a lot more by choosing this formation. It’s necessary to make a universal assessment, beyond Chivu, on who can give the most by changing from a 4-man defence to one with 3. The problems we had in the previous matches? I think that Siena and Rubin were two different matches. In the first one Inter created a lot but failed to score and were punished in Siena’s first chance. Against Rubin the match was balanced. Having said that, I know how strong Neftchi are and we’ll try to make things difficult for them."
Stramaccioni concluded: "Tomorrow will be a tough game because so far no Italian team has played as much as we have. Tomorrow we’ll see how deep this team is. It’s the first real moment in which the squad will be put to the test, since I’ve decided to rest those who have given me so much up to now. We respect Neftchi, but always with the Inter mentality, meaning that tomorrow we’ll take to the pitch to win with our heads held high, as always."