Inter coach Antonio Conte spoke to gathered reporters in a press conference ahead of the Nerazzurri’s Europa League semi-final clash against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. His words were noted by Italian media outlet FcInterNews.
First, he spoke about the semifinal opponents.
“Shakhtar a team full of talent beyond the coach, the structure of the club have shown that they are good at maintaining a high level.
“I remember when I played against them with Juventus, already at the time there were players who may not have been known but were of an undoubted level, this means that they always had very strong elements. Congratulations to them for how they always manage to find talent.”
The 51-year-old Italian coach touched on how it feels to have president Steven Zhang present.
“It always pleases me and the players to see the president and his presence here with us. For me he’s an added value in every situation, both for me and for the players.”
Conte predicted how the Ukrainian side will play this evening and what tactics they will deploy.
“I think Shakhtar will play with their own characteristics, with high pressure moments alternating with lower pressure moments to give us space on the pitch and then hit us on the counter. But they have their own identity, they have reached a respectable level in Europe.
“The great thing that the coach should be praised for is his ability to convince so many talented players to work for the team.
“Congratulations to them because having players of this depth in the middle of the pitch who are very careful in the defensive phase is a sign that they have worked hard.”
The former Chelsea and Juventus coach confirmed that he wasn’t afraid of Shakhtar and was approaching the game in a positive way.
“The word fear is not part of my vocabulary and it shouldn’t be part of the players’ vocabulary. We have great respect for Shakhtar, who have been confirmed to be great in recent years and we have prepared well for the game.
“They are the strongest team that we will face in our path so far in the Europa League, we will do it with great respect but showing that we are in the semifinals for a reason and we will fight dearly to get to the final.”
He wasn’t concerned about the fact that Inter are the only Italian team left in a European competition.
“We don’t consider ourselves the saviors of our homeland, we are a team that have tried to go their own way without looking at others.
“We’ve honored all the competitions and we’ve played to the very end, the goal is to look at ourselves and improve ourselves.”
Conte wasn’t selfish about his desire to win the competition.
“I would only be happy for the club if a European success came along. I’m not thinking of enriching my personal showcase, but that of the club that hires me.”
The former Chelsea and Italy boss wasn’t interested in talking about the team’s transfer market targets ahead of such an important game.
“I think it is inappropriate to talk about the market or other players. We are playing at the season finale, I thank the squad for what they have done during the season and especially for what they did after the lockdown.
“They were commendable in every way. I think it’s inappropriate to ask such a question, so politely stop.”
Finally, Conte spoke about Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez and if he’ll be fit in time for the game.
“We’re talking about a player who was out for three-quarters of the season. You often forget that. Today, we’re realizing what weapons I can’t use.
“Not having this player available after he’s back at an important level is disappointing, he deprives me of a fundamental element from the start or during the game.
“We have to ask for a greater sacrifice from the two forwards, the alternative is Esposito or to invent something ahead. We tried a little something in the emergency period, but let’s say that Alexis would have served us well.”