Luciano Spalletti insists Atalanta are “not a fluke” and can genuinely target Champions League qualification, while Inter learned from Mauro Icardi they are “a team and not a single player.”
“It’s a big game for its importance to the table, as Atalanta have been in the top echelons of Italian football for a few years now,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“Atalanta aren’t a fluke, they have maintained their identity under Gian Piero Gasperini, even with many changes of personnel. They put in great performances and there are high expectations, because they are not a revelation, but a reality that caught the attention of European football fans.
“As such, they quite rightly aspire to the Champions League and have everything in place to achieve that. I know Gasperini and he doesn’t use young players because he can’t keep hold of the bigger stars. He does it because results show he can maintain that position and develop his profession too. He’s a great Coach.
“Facing Atalanta is tricky, as they are so aggressive and always ready to take men on one-on-one. They don’t shy away, they are all pretty strong physically, build from the back and play a very vertical style of football with these wing-backs who bomb forward. One puts the cross in, the other enters the penalty area.
“We must be particularly wide awake on set plays, as they made us suffer with those earlier this season.”
Atalanta’s top scorer Duvan Zapata has 20 Serie A goals this season, but is suspended for the San Siro showdown.
“We’re missing Lautaro Martinez, so it’s only fair! They have the players who can replace him. I personally think it’s going to be Papu Gomez. He has this quality to play with his back to goal, is so strong in tight spaces and is able to find the right position no matter where you put him.”
Inevitably, Spalletti was asked about the return of Icardi, who played for the first time since February 13, earning and converting a penalty, then providing an assist for Ivan Perisic.
“The Icardi issue was an opportunity to re-evaluate that Inter are a team and not a single player. As I said many times, there are moments during the season when you have to analyse things more carefully. We must try to be authentic and not timid. Be clear, be yourself. Do what is best in that moment for these club colours.
“I think the team reacted the right way and showed it has the potential to get results against anyone. There were some injuries and other situations, but the squad is there, it knows football, has character and can challenge for the top four.
“I can’t say who will play tomorrow, but we always try to do what is best for Inter.”
The ultras in the Curva Nord released another statement warning they are “finished” with Icardi, but will cheer on the team.
“Inter belongs to those who love it and above those who actively participate in supporting it. I am convinced that those who have Inter in their heart will know how to behave and work to help the team get a result.”