Inter braced for another roller-coaster ride with Conte

(Reuters) - Inter Milan supporters are braced for another roller-coaster season, with good reason to believe that their side can wrest the Serie A title from Juventus and yet never certain what is around the corner with volatile coach Antonio Conte.

Soccer Football - Europa League - Final - Sevilla v Inter Milan - RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne, Germany - August 21, 2020 Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte and Inter Milan's Christian Eriksen look dejected after the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Ina Fassbender/Pool via REUTERS

Inter kick off at home to Fiorentina on Saturday, Serie A having agreed to push back their debut by a week after they reached the Europa League final which was played on Aug. 21.

Atalanta, third last season, also enter the fray when they visit Torino on Saturday, as do Lazio who are away to Cagliari. Titleholders Juventus, who beat Sampdoria 3-0 last Sunday on coach Andrea Pirlo’s debut, visit AS Roma on Sunday.

Conte’s first season at Inter produced some memorable moments and ended with them runners-up to Juventus, their highest place in the league for nine years.

But it was punctuated by some remarkable public outbursts by the outspoken Conte against the club leadership, where he variously accused them of poor planning and lack of support.

In one, he unfavourably compared Inter’s infrastructure to arch rivals Juventus, and also hinted that he could walk away after they ended the season by losing the Europa League final to Sevilla.

He also blamed a thin squad for some poor results and even claimed after one match, a 1-1 draw at home to Slavia Prague in the Champions League, that the opponents had played “the wrong kind of football”.

He eventually agreed to stay following a meeting with club president Steven Zhang “in the name of continuity and shared strategy”. But it remains to be seen whether the Chinese-owned club will continue to tolerate his outbursts this season.

Conte must also know that there will be no room for excuses this time.

Having signed Victor Moses, Ashley Young and Christian Eriksen, all from English Premier League clubs, in the January transfer window, Inter have since added midfielders Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid and Arturo Vidal from Barcelona, plus wing-back Aleksandar Kolarov from Roma.

In all, they have now spent around 270 million euros ($199.7 million) on new signings since Conte took over just over one year ago and there could be more additions before the current window ends.

“Inter must always aim high. Last year some mistakes were made that we have now corrected,” said midfielder Stefano Sensi.

“Ambition is the word we repeat ourselves most often. It is a word that helps you to improve and avoid the mistakes made in the past,” he said. “If each of us has ambition, then we can do great things”.

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Nick Macfie