Simone Inzaghi reflected on Inter’s ‘magical nights’ in the Champions League and the qualities of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid ahead of their Round of 16 tie.

The Nerazzurri exceeded expectations by reaching the Champions League final last term and they’re looking to do the impossible and go one step further this term, hoping Inzaghi’s expertise in cup competitions can make the difference on the European stage.

Inter are flying high in Serie A and can afford to place a little more focus on their European commitments, holding a nine-point lead over Juventus with a game in hand still. The Scudetto is the only major Italian honour still eluding Inzaghi in the Lombardy capital.

Speaking in a press conference via TMW, Inzaghi first discussed the qualities of Diego Simeone and his work at Atletico.

“Certainly, tomorrow it’ll be a pleasure to see Diego again as an opponent. He was a great teammate, we won in Rome at Lazio, then he went to Atletico, but we never lost sight of each other.

“It was clear that he would become a great coach, just look at what he did in 13 years at Atletico Madrid.

“He won a lot and, beyond the impact he gives to his teams, I saw Atletico play, it’s a pleasure to watch him play.”

He was asked what the next steps were at the Nerazzurri.

“We know what we did last year, we experienced magical nights together with our club and our fantastic fans. We would like to do it again, we know that there are great teams that have the same aspiration as Inter.

“Tomorrow evening, we’ll face an opponent of absolute value, a quality team. In the last few games Atletico have changed 22-23 players and the team hasn’t changed. They’re an excellent team, coached very well by Diego, it’ll be a very complicated tie for us, but we’ll play great.

“Tomorrow is the first 180-minute match, at our home, we know there’ll be a wonderful atmosphere and it’ll be wonderful to play. We’ll need the real Inter.”

The Italian coach commented on his expectations of Atletico.

“Predicting what’ll happen tomorrow night isn’t easy, seeing Atletico’s last few games they have changed a lot, I saw the game against Las Palmas, and they were very aggressive. In the Super Cup they weren’t the same attitude, the penultimate game in Seville they were different again.

“They’re a team that dribble a lot more than in the past, they have a lot of technique and excellent quality players. I’m not sure what the match will be like, we know that we’re facing a great team with a coach who has given a great mentality.”

Inzaghi was asked to explain the nature of his rotations and if he feels more European.

“I start from what happened, from what I did at Inter. Last year we did very well in the last three months by changing eight players every three days.

“But I had recovered everyone and at that moment it was the best solution. I don’t know what will happen between now and the end of the season.

“On Friday we had six days of work after Rome and in the last eight games we have almost always, apart from the Super Cup, been able to work in the right way. Now we know that will change, because we will play in 72 hours, and everything will be more difficult and complicated.

“As for the league, 20 days ago we were a point behind. Now we are at nine ahead from the second, we know that it’s very easy for everything to change. We remain very focused, not looking at distant dates but at the match that comes.

“Now let’s think about Atletico, then Lecce, hoping to have as few injuries as possible. Clearly playing every time a week is simpler, for recoveries and injuries, the boys work well and are monitored, from time to time I have to make difficult choices.”

He spoke about if tomorrow’s clash with Atletico could be compared to any prior match.

“I could think of Porto in the Round of 16 last year, a very determined team. The coaches were both former teammates, we know that it will be a very difficult Round of 16.

“The boys know this, and we have tried to prepare as best we can ways, we have to be good at managing the moments of the match, but the boys have grown.”

The Inter coach commented on what he likes most about Simeone and Atletico.

“As for Simeone, I said it, he was a great teammate and he’s an excellent coach. I know how difficult it is to stay at a club for many years, it happened to me at Lazio, and I hope I can continue here, us coaches are judged on the basis of results.

“Simeone had excellent results at Atletico, I’m not just talking about charisma and mentality, they are a team that play football, with principles, they want to dominate the game and play excellent football.”

Inzaghi was asked if he could become Inter’s version of Simeone.

“This is difficult, I understood that over the years at Lazio and now here at Inter. In 20 days, opinions on players and coaches change quickly. It’s useless to think too much, you have to work on principles, with these guys who always put on a smile.

“We’ve done six months in the best possible way, but the most important thing is these three that remain.”

The Nerazzurri coach commented on if his side are the favourites or not.

“They have many players, they’ve played many matches, Champions League finals, knockout matches. It’ll be a beautiful match, between two teams who play good football and have solid principles.

“We have seen it in recent years, a moment can change things, I think of the return leg against Liverpool two years ago when we got sent off. We seemed to dominate…

“Then the final against City, we played very well and could have had another encore. It’ll be a beautiful match, with two teams that will play to get into the quarterfinals.”

He spoke about the influence of Sven Goran Eriksson.

“Very much. He was an excellent coach, an excellent person, with innovative tactical ideas, which allowed him to win a lot in Italy and abroad. He certainly had a great influence on us.”

The Italian tactician touched on how the team’s point cushion in the lead helps.

“Not too much, it helps the progress. We have to continue knowing that there are a huge number of games left. We have had an excellent run for 25 games, before Riyadh we were a point behind in the league and now, we have a decent advantage.

“Everything is going very quickly, we have to be focused even when we sleep, the dangers are around the corner and in this case it’s Atletico, I don’t have to introduce them because we know what type of team they are.”

Inzaghi was asked how he manages to look so young despite the stresses of the job.

“Let’s say it’s nice…. Being this climate that we breathe together with the club, players, staff, fans. A coach that can breathe is one that every coach dreams of.

“We know we are judged on a daily basis, then there are moments in which you are the best in the world and others in which you are the last. You have to always try to work in the best way.”

He commented on his plans for the starting lineup.

“Today the boys, those who took to the pitch, are fine. All 20 want to play, including Stankovic, tomorrow I will have to make choices, as I did before the Salernitana match. We have some important absences, but the others know.”

The 47-year-old spoke about if Inter could still improve.

“There is always a margin, in every match… When you win you analyse the match with more pleasure, with more taste.

“After each match there is a careful and fair analysis. We analysed the match in Rome and the one against Salernitana, drawing up ideas.”

He was asked what Alexis Sanchez needs to do to play more.

“I said it on Friday, after Salernitana. Thuram and Lautaro are playing more at the moment, but I’m happy with them like Arnautovic and Sanchez, who are doing an excellent job.

“That means training in the best way, always being proactive with the squad and always giving a great hand when called into action.

“Sanchez scored a fundamental goal for Salzburg, on Sunday in Rome he started the move for Arnautovic where we closed out the match with a goal from Bastoni.

“They must continue like this, for me they are very precious, perhaps others think not, but for me they have had an excellent six months so far.”

Inzaghi discussed Simeone’s changing philosophy and if that’s needed to compete on the European level.

“Every coach plays football in his own way. Cholo is a coach who I have always looked up to with great interest, because he is an excellent coach and a person I respect a lot.

“This year I’ve seen him do ultra-offensive pressing, using their players very well inside the pitch, playing very good football.

“Then I can’t tell you what match will come out tomorrow night at the moment, it’s a Round of 16 match and it’ll be very important for both of us.

“But Atletico, from what we have seen this year, is playing excellent football and is getting results, knowing that they always play against opponents like Real Madrid and Barcelona.”

He was asked if the expectations on Inter in the Champions League this season changed things compared to last term.

“It may be the logical consequence of what the team is expressing, but I said it before, we must remain very focused on doing what we’ve done in these first six months, then it’ll be what it’ll be.

“From here to the end there’ll be many games, many challenges to always face in the best way, knowing that tomorrow will be very difficult.”

Finally, Inzaghi commented on the differences between preparing for a Champions League group game and knockout game.

“Well, clearly there was even more time to study the opponent. We know about Atletico’s strength, compared to the group stage matches, this time we had two and a half months, we know what type of team we’ll face, intense and physique with great quality.

“They have a very, very deep squad, I expect all the players to be able to make their contribution. Diego can choose the best 11.”

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