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Mancini: Inter season not a disaster

Robert Mancini defended Inter's record this season and hopes to keep the nucleus of his squad together in order to progress next term.

Inter travel to the capital to face Lazio on Sunday, their opponents now led by Mancini's former Stadio Olimpico team-mate Simone Inzaghi.

Their pre-Christmas title challenge having long since subsided, Inter lie fourth - seven points shy of third-placed Roma - and their slim mathematical hopes of claiming a Champions League spot will end if they fail to better the result achieved by Luciano Spalletti's side in this round of fixtures.

Roma are away at Genoa on Monday but Mancini was keen to focus on his own team's achievements, having accepted culpability for some of their failings during the second half of the campaign earlier this week.

"As I've said lots of times before, all the players have shown 100 per cent commitment from day one," he told a pre-match news conference.

"We need to produce three top performances because you never know what can happen. As long as third place is still possible we'll keep trying.

"We can talk about any regret we may have next Saturday. There hasn't been a single game where we haven't set out to win. We've always tried our very best but this is football: you win some and you lose some.

"It hasn't been a disastrous season and the fans should know that. We're fourth behind three very well-equipped sides. We were superb in the first half of the season, then we had a natural dip in form and dropped points but overall it's been an excellent season.

"I gave myself a low mark the other week because I'm very demanding. I had hoped to give Inter the Champions League stage they deserve.

"Of course, I have to assess other things and I don't think it's been a negative season."

Mancini confirmed Adem Ljajic would miss the Lazio match after  sustaining a thigh injury in training, while he also reflected on the long-term future of reportedly sought-after stars such as captain Mauro Icardi and Marcelo Brozovic.

"I hope the team gets better every year and how that happens is not important," he added.

"Inter are a great club and must aim to improve constantly. We're on the right track.

"A side that has been playing together for two or three years naturally has an advantage over a team that changed eight or nine players."