ROME (Reuters) - Inter Milan head coach Antonio Conte warned against complacency and urged his players to show they are credible Serie A title contenders ahead of Sunday’s home clash with relegation battlers Crotone.
Conte’s team, who finished as runners-up last season, cut the gap to league leaders AC Milan to just one point before the 10-day winter break, thanks to a run of seven straight league wins.
That form has put Inter firmly in the mix to end their 11-year wait for a league title, with defending champions Juventus languishing nine points behind them in sixth.
“We must confirm our place among the contenders,” Conte told a news conference.
“We don’t have to send any message, just be credible. We have the duty to fight until the end. When you’re at Inter, this is an obligation.
“It’s a balanced championship. You need to sweat to win every match and there are no easy games.
“In the end important values like hard work and organisation will stand out, things that make you excel and win.”
Inter are favourites to come out on top against Crotone, who are in 19th place having won just twice since being promoted from Serie B.
However, one of those victories came in Crotone’s last match before the break and Conte insisted he will not be underestimating the threat of the visitors.
“We’re expecting a demanding match, as I think they all are in Serie A," he said.
"We’re facing a team that has been galvanised by finishing last year with a win against Parma.
“This match will require a lot of focus. Starting again after the holidays is always a great unknown, but we know the importance of continuing our positive streak.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)