Round 33 of the Serie A season sees the Nerazzurri return to San Siro in desperate need of a return to winning ways, following a run of two points in three games which has seen them slide out of Italy’s Champions League spots.
Sunday’s goalless draw between rivals Lazio and Roma ensured that they stayed within one point of third place despite being held by Atalanta the night before, but with only six matches left to play Spalletti believes Inter cannot accept anything other than victory against Diego Lopez’s side on Tuesday evening.
“Earlier in the season we had built up an advantage [over our competitors] and given ourselves something to manage”, he told reporters during his pre-match press conference on Monday.
“Following our recent results however we no longer have that possibility, we can no longer afford to manage anything.
“I don’t know how many points we will need in order to secure Champions League qualification, but there are six matches left now and we need to take things one game at a time.
“As far as tomorrow’s game is concerned our only objective is to win.”
Asked what will be the key to securing a top four finish Spalletti said his players will need to show their true character from now until the end of the season, starting with the upcoming fixture at San Siro.
“I expect progress to be made in terms of our character”, he said. “The players need to take to the pitch with the mentality that the moment is now and won’t come round again.
“We can only play this season once so we all need to give something more. We need to be our own driving force without waiting for somebody else to come along and save us.”
Spalletti insisted that he is not concerned by Inter’s recent struggles in front of goal, despite the Nerazzurri having failed to score in three consecutive Serie A games for the first time since February 2012.
“We’re coming off a few games in which we haven’t scored but we mustn’t lose sight of the performances we’ve put in, because in that sense we’re doing well.
“Of course goals make the difference - if you score then you can pick up three points, whereas if you don’t score then even when you play well the maximum you can pick up is one. But it’s not a big step that we need to make.
“It’s not as if we need to pull a rabbit out of the hat here. Throughout these last few games we’ve created lots of chances, we’ve put ourselves in the position to score on plenty of occasions - we simply need to demand more of ourselves when it comes to finalising our attacking moves.
“There are two sides to these numbers you keep talking about, too. Lazio may have scored many more goals than us this season, for instance, but they’ve also conceded many more than us.
“Often people only bring up the numbers that suit them but evidently there are several things that we’re doing right as well.”
Spalletti also discussed his decision to switch to a three-man defence for the match against Atalanta on Saturday, before hinting that Inter could use the same system against Cagliari.
“My job is to come up with solutions that give the team more creativity and unpredictability, which take us from having 2-3 clear-cut chances per game to having 5-6.
“What matters is not so much the composition of the defence itself but what it means for the team further up the pitch. Playing with a back three enables us to have more players in central zones who are immediately ready to attack the other team’s penalty area.
“Tomorrow we will be up against a team that uses a 3-5-1-1 formation, which means they will have eight players in the central strip of the pitch. That kind of set-up can be difficult to play against and we need to make sure they don’t outnumber us in the middle.”
Spalletti told reporters that Antonio Candreva should recover in time to take part in Tuesday’s match, having sustained an ankle problem during the defeat to Torino on 8 April, while stating that Rafinha is in a good condition to play his second game in the space of four days.
Arriving at San Siro on matchday 33 is a Cagliari outfit fresh from a hugely important win against Udinese on Saturday (putting an end to a run of three straight defeats), but deprived of arguably their two most important midfielders in Nicolò Barella and Luca Cigarini (both of whom are suspended).
Despite those absences, however, head coach Diego Lopez has urged the Rossoblu to take the game to Inter so that they can come away with precious points in their battle to avoid relegation.
“It will be a difficult game for us against a very good team,” he told reporters in his pre-match press conference, “but we’ll be going to Milan determined to get a result.
“Inter have some great players but we can hold our own against them, as we saw in the reverse fixture back in November. Icardi? He’s a player that can touch the ball twice and score two goals, we’ll need to stay concentrated at the back.
“We need to try and play our usual game, because if we go there just to defend then we won’t get anywhere. Our mentality will make the difference.”