Barella challenged to 'take the next step' by Inter assistant Stellini

By Sports Desk February 05, 2021

Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini has challenged Nicolo Barella to take the next step in his career by adding more goals to his game after scoring in Friday's 2-0 win at Fiorentina.

The Italy international curled in a delightful opener after 31 minutes at Stadio Artemio Franchi and Ivan Perisic added a second as Inter moved top of Serie A.

Barella, who was earlier denied by a fine Bartlomiej Dragowski save, now has three goals and five assists in 21 league outings this term.

That makes 2020-21 the midfielder's best Serie A season in terms of goal involvements, though he did net six times for Cagliari in the 2017-18 season.

Stellini, who was filling in for suspended head coach Antonio Conte against Fiorentina, hopes to see Barella build on those figures in the remainder of the season.

"He is still growing, like Lautaro [Martinez] and many other young players in the squad," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The next step is a few more goals."

Barella's two other goals this season came from inside the penalty area, the 23-year-old having converted just one of his four Opta-defined big chances.

"I was missing them before, but now the goals are starting to come," Barella said. "Today I could have done better, but I am putting myself in good positions."

Perisic also impressed in the routine victory in Florence before leaving the pitch with a knock 10 minutes from time.

The 32-year-old, linked with an exit in January, was on target for just the second time in 19 league outings this term and Stellini was impressed with the winger's display.

"He adapts well and sacrifices a lot," Stellini said. "Before he was a protagonist in the opposition's half, while today he also helped at the other end.

"He is a precious player for us because he is very physical and can cover the whole wing very well. We are convinced and satisfied with what he is doing."

Victory for Inter was their first away at Fiorentina in the league in seven attempts since 2014 and marked the first time they have won successive Serie A matches in 2021.

The Nerazzurri, beaten 2-1 by Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final earlier this week, are now a point above Milan ahead of their bitter rivals' game in hand against bottom side Crotone on Sunday.

Romelu Lukaku wasted a couple of opportunities and had a goal ruled out, while Dragowski produced four saves in total, but Stellini had no complaints with his side's profligacy.

"We are satisfied with the chances created," he said. "Our forwards have worked well in partnerships, creating several opportunities to score.

"Our players are very generous and sometimes can lose control, but today they were tidy and precise. It wasn't easy so I congratulate the team.

"We don't think about other sides, only our own path. After the game three days ago, it was not easy to come here on a difficult surface."

Fiorentina had won their previous two home league matches and were unfortunate not to be on level terms at half-time as Giacomo Bonaventura struck the crossbar.

However, head coach Cesare Prandelli accepted that his side were second best and did not deserve anything from the game.

"We reacted well to Inter's goal but then opened ourselves up too much," he said. "They were superior to us, but I don't blame my players for anything.

"When you face a team with players that Inter have, who punish you with speed, it can be hard. It's sometimes easier to just give credit to your opponent."

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