The Nerazzurri face Chievo on Sunday in a match they are obliged to win as the race for Serie A’s top four enters its home straight, but head coach Spalletti has warned that talent and technique alone will not be enough to secure their ticket to Europe’s top club competition for the 2018-19 campaign.
“If you want to be a great player and achieve great results,” he told reporters during his pre-match press conference on Saturday, “you can’t rely on technical quality alone.
“You also need to display other qualities, such as character and heart.
“We will need to play with our hearts [from now until the end of the season] as that is what enables you to go the extra mile.”
Standing between Inter and the victory they require this weekend is a goal-scoring drought away from home that has seen them fail to find the net in each of their last three matches on the road, and Spalletti was categorical that his players will need to find a solution to their attacking woes against the Gialloblu.
“We know what the numbers say and what our strengths and weaknesses are,” he said, “but we have to be able to go beyond them.
“Nothing is deferrable for us anymore. Any problems that we encounter in our remaining five games of the season will need to be resolved in that specific moment, because we don’t have time to lose.
“We are where we wanted to be at the start of the season, or rather in a position to fight for Champions League qualification right until the end. But we need to be demanding of ourselves and keep looking to correct all the mistakes we’ve made.
“We played well against Cagliari [on Tuesday] but that game is over now. Another one is about to start and we’ll have to be just as good as that again. We can’t afford to let up, we don’t have a nanosecond to waste.”
Spalletti’s biggest selection dilemma heading into Sunday’s match is in midfield, after Roberto Gagliardini picked up a hamstring injury in midweek that may keep him out of action until the end of the season.
However he insisted he was not concerned by the Italian’s absence, while also suggesting that Gagliardini could make a quicker recovery than many have reported.
“Considering Roberto’s physical and mental strength and the quality of our medical staff, I think he could even return before the game against Lazio [on the final weekend of the season].
“In any case, we have various players who can play in that position; we have everything we need in order to go toe-to-toe with any opposition.
“In [Marcelo] Brozovic we have a player with the personality to attempt passes that open up space for the team on the pitch.
“In the past he hasn’t always had the character to express his qualities on a consistent basis, but he’s now found a mental balance that enables him to help us like he has in the last few games.”
“[Matias] Vecino? He’s in a good condition now. He’s ready to play and play well from the start this weekend.”
Spalletti was also asked to compare his team with their Champions League rivals Roma and Lazio, before having his brains picked on how many points the Nerazzurri will need in order to secure a top-four finish.
“I don’t know what we have in our favour compared to Roma and Lazio,” he replied, “but I know for sure that we don’t have anything less than they do. We have one point fewer, but that’s it.
“Our extra quality with respect to them is the fact that we’re called Inter, just as their extra qualities are to be called Roma and Lazio.
“Would 74 points be enough to finish fourth? It’s difficult to say at the moment, there are plenty of hidden traps still left along the way.
“As far as we’re concerned our most important game left this season is the one that we’re playing tomorrow, and we need to proceed with this mindset until the end.
“We need to take one game at a time.”
Inter’s opponents on Sunday are a Chievo side with a desperate need for points after picking up just two wins from their last 19 league matches, a run of form which has left the Flying Donkeys just three points above the Serie A relegation zone with five games to play.
The last time the Gialloblu squared up to Luciano Spalletti’s men back on 3 December they were dealt an unceremonious 5-0 drubbing, but head coach Rolando Maran is confident of avoiding a similar debacle on this occasion as he believes his players will be hungry to avenge their humiliation at San Siro.
“We’re still reeling from the defeat in the reverse fixture,” he told reporters on Saturday, “and that will be an extra motivation to do well tomorrow.
“Inter are a very solid team that give away very little, and they have the forward players to hurt you in open spaces. They will also have had an extra day’s rest compared to us, so we will need to everyone to be at their best in order to get a result.
“I would have wanted to arrive at this game with fewer problems in terms of the league table but we’re in the right psychological state to play the perfect game.”