Antonio Conte insists Inter will continue to focus on themselves and not Milan after missing out on the chance to leapfrog their rivals at the top of Serie A.
A week on from beating fellow Scudetto contenders Juventus 2-0, Inter failed to get going as they were held to a goalless draw away at lowly Udinese on Saturday.
Conte’s side attempted just 10 shots at the Dacia Arena – their joint-fewest in an away league match this season – in a game that saw Conte sent off late on for dissent.
Milan lost 3-0 to Atalanta on Saturday but Inter could only close the gap on the leaders to two points at the midway stage in the campaign.
The Nerazzurri have now triumphed in only one of their last four Serie A matches, having won their previous eight in a row, and Conte accepts an improvement is needed.
— Inter (@Inter_en) January 23, 2021
“As I always say, we need to think only of ourselves and not others, such as Milan. We just have to focus on improving our performances and results,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“We just try to work and get the best out of ourselves. I think that amid the many, many difficulties we had this year, Inter are having their say and are real protagonists.
“Inter deserve that for their history. The second half of the season is still to play, but what we’ve done for the last year and a half has been wonderful.”
Conte was issued a yellow card and then a swift red by referee Fabio Maresca as the game entered added time, while team manager Lele Oriali was dismissed after the final whistle.
Explaining the touchline commotion during a game otherwise devoid of many talking points, Conte said: “We had a disagreement over the amount of stoppages awarded.
“The referee booked me and then chose to send me off. I thought four minutes weren’t enough to add on in the circumstances.
“Then the referee makes his decisions and we have to accept them, even if we do not agree with those decisions.”
A number of visiting players had an off day against an Udinese side without a goal in six successive league games against Inter – their longest such streak against any side in the division.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 23, 2021
Achraf Hakimi in particular struggled, losing possession more times (23) than any other player, with Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku failing to get on the end of balls into the penalty box.
“We could’ve been more precise today and lacked quality in the final ball,” Conte admitted. “When we put crosses in, we usually have four players push into the box.
“That’s usually the intent, then it’s about the accuracy of the cross. For instance, Nicolo Barella’s cross was what created the goal for Arturo Vidal against Juventus.
“You need both the cross and to get bodies into the box.”
Focus for Inter now switches to Tuesday’s derby with Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, though Conte is prioritising the league over domestic cup success.
“We know that Serie A represents something important for the club and on an economic level, so winning the Scudetto or qualifying for the Champions League is more important than the Coppa Italia,” he said.
“Having said that, we still respect the tournament and want to do well. Inevitably, we will evaluate the situation, see who has recovered and who needs more playing time.
“Nobody is underestimating this match and we’ll try to win, as we always do. We don’t put limits on ourselves, but we must find the right approach to beat Milan and go into the semi-finals.”