Luciano Spalletti believes Inter Milan are used to the “important emotional element” that comes with a pivotal fixture as they look to seal Champions League qualification.
With Empoli hovering one point above the relegation zone in Serie A, Inter’s head coach is aware that his side must be firing on all cylinders when they meet at the San Siro on Sunday evening.
A win will guarantee a top-four position in the league and a place in next season’s elite European club competition, but the Nerazzurri have been in indifferent form of late.
Since defeating bitter rivals AC Milan in mid-March, Inter have collected only 13 points from an available 27 – the same number as their next opponents – with only three victories in that period.
Spalletti stressed the need for Inter to believe in themselves, telling a press conference broadcast on his club’s website: “There’s certainly an important emotional element to it, but we’re used to that.
“I think that the team have learned the right lessons to come into this match prepared to deal with the emotional factor that such a game can generate.
“We need to believe in ourselves and show the mental strength to get a result.
“Empoli are doing well at the moment. However, it’s clear that sometimes high stakes can cancel out what’s gone on before.
“You need to do well in terms of performing the best you possibly can. I hope the team manage to display all the ingredients they have shown in many games.
“The only thing we’re focused on is bringing Champions League football back to Inter.”
Spalletti confirmed Stefan De Vrij is available to take his place at the heart of Inter’s backline following a thigh injury that has forced him to miss the last two games, while forward Matteo Politano is also fit.
Empoli also need a win to make certain of their top-flight status.
Head coach Aurelio Andreazzoli said rather diplomatically of Spalletti in quotes on Empoli’s website: “We hope we are both happy at the end.
“A great challenge awaits us. We are satisfied with what we have done so far. We could perhaps have done something more, but the team is now growing.
“The race is extremely important, we’re going to play against an excellent team.
“It will all be very difficult but it is a challenge that we must face with the right attitude, without anxiety but with the pleasure of going to play a race to remember.”
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