Antonio Conte says that Inter Milan must have “no regrets” in their pursuit of a Champions League last-16 place.
Inter host a Barcelona side on Tuesday already through to the knockout phase and without rested superstar talisman Lionel Messi.
Inter will progress if they beat Barcelona or at least finish level on points with third-placed Borussia Dortmund, given the Italian team’s superior head-to-head goal difference over the Germans.
“This is an important moment for us,” Inter boss Conte told reporters at his pre-match press conference and reported by Inter’s official website.
“If we rewind the clock and go back to the day of the draw, there was the realisation that we would be playing to qualify from a group that everybody described as difficult at home on the last match-day against Barcelona.
“It will be an important game, and we know that we can progress with a positive result. It is important for everyone – for the environment, the players, for me, too.
“Tomorrow, we should only think about ourselves and approaching the match in the right manner.
“Our objective is clear – to come off the pitch with no regrets having given everything, and also considering the fact that it might not be enough against a team like Barcelona.
“We are not thinking too much about Barcelona. They have a squad of 20-22 players, all of whom are very good.
“Their team is one of the best in the world. They aim to win all the competitions they are involved in every year.
“They will come here with a sense of calm in the knowledge that they’ve already secured first place. It’s not necessarily an advantage for us. They could feel less pressure and play more freely.”
Inter are without Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez and Roberto Gagliardini, while Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto join Messi in not travelling to Milan.
Conte added: “We need to show courage and enthusiasm. Qualifying for the last 16 is a feat which would be prestigious for everyone.
“I’m sure that the whole stadium will help us by giving off positive energy. This is required so that we can overcome this great obstacle together.”
Barcelona beat Inter 2-1 in their first Champions League meeting this season, and Conte said: “As was the case back then, we will prepare for the match by trying to get the best out of our players and their characteristics.
“It’s impossible to think that Barcelona’s passing game won’t cause us any difficulties. We need to be compact, brave in closing them down and good on the ball in order to put them under pressure.”
Speaking about his squad selection at a pre-match press conference and reported by AS newspaper, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde said: “The decisions are made by the coach. He does what he thinks is convenient for the team.
“Messi’s case is he has a rest in this game and nothing more. We have important matches left.”
Asked about the Inter encounter, he added: “It is an important, difficult challenge.
“We have already qualified, but we intend to take the game forward, compete, with a great atmosphere. We will try to win, knowing that they have a great team.”
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