No more second chances - Conte wants Inter to thrive under Champions League pressure

By Sports Desk December 09, 2019

Antonio Conte has stressed there will be no second chances for Inter when they take on Barcelona in a crucial Champions League clash on Tuesday.

Inter welcome Barca to San Siro sitting second in Group F, level on seven points with Borussia Dortmund, who face Slavia Prague.

The Nerazzurri - who hold a two-point lead over Juventus at the top of Serie A - must at least match Dortmund's result to ensure their place in the knockout stages.

While Conte is not thinking too far ahead in regard to how far his team can go in the competition, he emphasised Inter must grasp their final opportunity to progress.

"This is a very important game for me and the club. Our qualification hopes are on the line. It is a very big moment in our season," Conte told a news conference.

"When the draw was made, this was labelled the group of death. There are some great teams in Group F, the fact we are still in the running is very impressive. We should be very proud of how we've done.

"This would be a great achievement should we qualify. There are injuries at the moment, it has been an ongoing situation. The positive aspect is everyone is responding well. Everyone in the team is taking responsibility.

"We have injuries but everyone is stepping up, there are three games before the winter break, there is the right enthusiasm in the squad, we are on the right track, we simply need to keep this up and give that little bit extra and dig deep.

"There will be no second chances, so we must do our job and get the result. In the tough times we need to give our all. 

"There will be pressure on us, but this team is growing and needs this experience. We cannot look too far ahead."

Barca have already secured first place in the group and, with their rearranged Clasico against Real Madrid coming up, Ernesto Valverde has left both Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique out of his 20-man squad, though Conte does not think that will make Inter's task any easier.

"Barca are an amazing side whoever plays. Barca are one of the best teams in the world, they aim to win every competition," Conte said. "They have qualified but will come here to play their game.

"They have no pressure which could work in their favour, but we need to focus on ourselves, play our game. I will tell the lads I want us to give our all. I do not want us to have any regrets."

Luis Suarez scored both of Barca's goals in the reverse fixture as they claimed a 2-1 win at Camp Nou in October, with Lautaro Martinez having put Inter ahead early on.

Martinez has been in superb form this season, scoring 13 goals in all competitions, and is reportedly being considered by Barca as a possible replacement for Suarez should the former Liverpool star leave the club.

Suarez's Uruguay team-mate Diego Godin, however, is hopeful Martinez's immediate future is with Inter.

"I know Suarez very well, he is one of the best," Godin said. "I have been playing with Lautaro from this season, he is developing all of the time, he is in good form at the moment, playing very well.

"At the moment he is at Inter, he has many good years ahead of him, he has the skills to go far, there is no limit, I feel. We all hope he can keep doing well, I hope he can help this team. He is a player with a key role."

Related items

  • Coronavirus: Fairer to end LaLiga season now, says former Barca star Stoichkov Coronavirus: Fairer to end LaLiga season now, says former Barca star Stoichkov

    Former Barcelona star Hristo Stoichkov believes it would be fairer to end the LaLiga now, scrap relegation and promote two teams from the second division amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    LaLiga has been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19, which has led to more than 12,640 deaths in Spain and over 69,450 globally.

    Reigning champions Barcelona held a two-point lead over bitter rivals Real Madrid when the league was stopped, while Cadiz and Real Zaragoza occupied the promotion places in Segunda Division.

    Stoichkov – who won five LaLiga titles and a European Cup among other honours during his time at Camp Nou – feels Barca should be crowned champions if no more games are played in 2019-20.

    "If we see how the situation is, with the matches which have been played, it would be fairer to end the La Liga season as it is now," Stoichkov told Cope program Tiempo de Juego.

    "Many teams could stay up at the bottom, there are a lot of matches left.

    "They could leave the league as it is, have no relegation and the top two from Segunda could get promoted to have a 22 team league. Because they have also done a lot of work to win many matches."

  • Aussie great Viduka reveals he almost joined Milan, held Man Utd talks Aussie great Viduka reveals he almost joined Milan, held Man Utd talks

    Mark Viduka revealed Leeds United blocked him from joining Milan in a £38million transfer in 2001, while the Australian great also held talks with Manchester United.

    Regarded as one of Australia's all-time greats, Viduka was a dominant force during his time with Dinamo Zagreb, Celtic, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.

    Viduka spent four years with Leeds and helped the Premier League club reach the 2001 Champions League semi-finals, prompting interest from across Europe.

    Serie A powerhouse Milan wanted Viduka but Leeds – eventually crippled by financial issues – prevented the former Socceroos captain from moving to San Siro.

    "I had the chance to join AC Milan at the end of the 2001 season, after we made the Champions League semi-final," the 44-year-old told ESPN.

    "[Leeds] were negotiating with Milan and wanted £38m. I was friends with [Milan star] Zvonimir Boban at the time, and we were negotiating terms through him. In the end, [Milan] offer the £38m, and Leeds didn't want to sell. And that was that.

    "I was a huge AC Milan fan. As a kid, I grew up watching [Marco] van Basten, [Frank] Rijkaard and [Ruud] Gullit ... They were my favourite team. It just wasn't to be."

    United – managed by Alex Ferguson at the time – were also admirers and tried to lure Viduka to Old Trafford, however, the 43-time Australia international opted to stay at Leeds.

    Detailing a meeting with music icon Elton John, Viduka said: "I was in Manchester, and my agent at the time also had a lot to do with Elton John.

    "He said stay for the night and come to the show. He had backstage passes, and I'd get the chance to meet the man for myself. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

    "So I'm there with Jacob Burns, my Leeds team-mate and fellow Aussie, as we got ushered into his dressing room. As we enter, Elton swings around on a swivel chair and says, 'Mark Viduka, you're from Melbourne. I love that place!'

    "I was nervous, so I babbled on about my meeting with the Red Devils that day and a possible move. Instead of going to our seats to watch the concert, Elton gets us to watch it at the side of the stage. About three songs in, he says, 'I want to dedicate this next one to my good friend Mark, who is in Manchester today to make a big decision.'

    "I'm thinking: 'S***, please don't say anymore!' Thank God he didn't. I didn't sign for Man United. I think I loved living in Leeds too much at the time."

  • Willian says Chelsea renewal 'very difficult' amid exit talk Willian says Chelsea renewal 'very difficult' amid exit talk

    Chelsea star Willian believes it will be "very difficult" to sign a new contract as he heads for a Stamford Bridge exit.

    Willian is out of contract at the end of June and his future is unclear amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Premier League season suspended.

    The 31-year-old, who arrived from Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013, wants a three-year deal but Chelsea have been unwilling to meet his demands.

    Linked with LaLiga champions Barcelona previously, Willian told Fox Sports Brasil show Expendiente Futebol: "Everyone knows my contract is up in a few months and it looks like it'll be very difficult to secure an extension.

    "I think it's unlikely that I'll renew because Chelsea offered me a two-year deal, I asked for three and it ended there.

    "There were no more talks or negotiations. Chelsea said that three years would be impossible, so at the moment it seems unlikely that I'll extend, but nothing is impossible.

    "We don't know what might happen. We might suddenly reach an agreement, but what I can say today is that my contract is up and I'll be free to negotiate with any club."

    "I've built something fantastic at Chelsea," he added.  "I'm especially fond of the fans and the people that work there, and I've felt very settled."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.