Stefano Pioli admits he and his players are fighting for their Inter futures between now and the end of the season.
The Inter head coach acknowledges a Champions League spot is now beyond the club after one point from their last two matches has left them nine points behind third-placed Napoli with eight fixtures to play going into Sunday’s away game against struggling Crotone.
Pioli’s men sit sixth in the table with a Europa League spot now looking like a more realistic target and he knows the stakes are high for his own job at San Siro as the likes of Diego Simeone and Antonio Conte continue to be linked with the role.
“Everyone is playing to confirm themselves in this latter part of the season, that goes for me and the players,” Pioli, who replaced the sacked Frank de Boer in November, said at his pre-match media conference.
“If you are at Inter it is important to prove that you can play at certain levels. In these moments we have to prove to be worthy of Inter, but we have the quality to fight back and start again.
“I have never thought about a final league position, only to give my all and do as well as possible.
“It is only at the end of the season that we can see whether or not we are satisfied. We will meet with the club in May, look each other in the eyes and give an honest analysis.
“The Champions League was always a difficult dream to achieve. We are still not mathematically condemned, but if it was difficult before it is even more so now.
“But we forget too easily the path we have taken. The team needed a jolt after the defeats to Napoli [in December] and in Israel [against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in November].
“The team might have been concerned about the future at that point but we have been on a great run and climbed the table. Now we must maintain that belief.”
Pioli, who is under contract until 2018, continued: “There can be no question of us underestimating this game. We are coming off a bad defeat against Sampdoria and two games which we didn’t win – it would be very bad to think about the future and not about this.
“I expect to see a team which is ready, eager and determined because Crotone have so much to play for. I don’t accept though that they have more motivation that us, because we still have so much to say.
“Our season is far from over. Now is the time to show that we belong at Inter going forward.”
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