MILAN (Reuters) - Antonio Conte has urged his Inter Milan players to ignore the big gap between his side and AC Milan in the Serie A standings ahead of their derby clash on Sunday.
Inter are second, 19 points ahead of ninth-placed Milan.
But Conte warned that the table does not tell the full story, with Milan unbeaten in five league games since the January arrival of former Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer.
“Milan deserve a lot more points than they currently have,” Conte told a media conference on Saturday.
“They are a great team and have added a champion like Ibrahimovic, who brings confidence and experience. He has played for both clubs, so it will be emotional for him.
“The derby always has hidden dangers and the extra difficulties are intensified, because there is this desire to be on top in the city.
“But we need to focus on our own path. We have an important run of games ahead of us.”
Inter made a big January signing of their own when they brought in playmaker Christian Eriksen from Tottenham Hotspur in a deal reportedly worth 20 million euros ($21.89 million).
The Denmark international made his first start in Sunday’s 2-0 win at Udinese and looks set to be in the lineup again in the ‘Derby della Madonnina’ despite Conte’s admission that the midfielder needed time to adjust to his new surroundings.
“He has certain characteristics that suit our style of football. It’s very important to have him in both the defensive and attacking phases,” Conte said.
“He is entering a new world — in Italy it is more tactical. I hope he won’t need a lot of time to adjust because we need him straight away. He is an intelligent player who is adapting quickly.”
Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Ken Ferris