Antonio Conte feels Inter’s derby victory over Milan took away a lot of “nervous” energy as his side fell to a limp Coppa Italia semi-final first-leg loss at home to Napoli.
The Nerazzurri fought back from two goals down to defeat their rivals 4-2 in a barnstorming Serie A encounter at San Siro on Sunday.
It was a different story on Wednesday night, though, as Inter struggled to get out of second gear and succumbed to a 1-0 loss against the Partenopei thanks to Fabian Ruiz’s excellent second-half strike.
Speaking to Rai Sport after the game, head coach Conte insisted his side are still a “long way off” being considered one of Europe’s elite sides again, and urged his players to learn from their latest setback in order to progress.
“The derby took away a lot of energy, especially nervous,” he began. “I made five changes from Sunday to bring in fresh legs, but Napoli beat Juventus, Lazio and Liverpool this season, so that means they’ve got quality there.
“I’d say that, after Juventus, Napoli have the most impressive squad in Serie A.
“Gennaro Gattuso was smart to sit back, wait and go on the counter. We had the chances and it would’ve been a fair result if we had played out a draw.
“When you’re up against defensive teams like this, you have to move the ball around faster and create spaces.
“We are at the start of this journey, so if some think we are at the same level as a side that was at the top for many years, then I say we’re a long way off and have to use these defeats to improve.”
Christian Eriksen was again only among the Inter substitutes, with Conte explaining the Denmark playmaker is still finding his best form after being in and out of Tottenham’s team.
“He is certainly a player of quality, he needs to rediscover that intensity, seeing as he hasn’t played much in the last six months,” Conte said.
Inter will now turn their attention back to Serie A, with a trip to Rome to face third-placed Lazio on the cards this Sunday.
The Nerazzurri must win to remain top of the table ahead of reigning champions Juventus, who will be in action at home to Brescia in one of the days early kick-offs.
Conte will then prepare his players for a Europa League last 32 meeting with Ludogorets on February 20, three days before Sampdoria arrive at San Siro.