Luciano Spalletti feels it could be an advantage for Inter to be without a recognised striker for their Europa League last-16 tie at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Spalletti's side are without Lautaro Martinez due to suspension and Mauro Icardi is not in the squad, the latter having not played since being stripped of the captaincy.

A clutch of youth team players have been called up to bolster a thin squad but Spalletti denied having an eye on Sunday's derby clash with AC Milan in Serie A.

Keita Balde Diao and Matteo Politano are among the options available to Spalletti in attack on Thursday, with Inter at home for the second leg after last week's goalless draw in Frankfurt.

"Politano played as a striker last year for Sassuolo and did really well," Spalletti told reporters.

"Not giving clear points of reference to the opposition can be an added advantage. Keita Balde is also comfortable in that position.

"Keita is doing well, while [Marcelo] Brozovic has been called up but will be on the bench. Borja Valero will play as normal. We hope that these few rest days have got [Ivan] Perisic back to his best.

"He's an important player for us. He's blessed with plenty of qualities, whether that be fitness, physicality or his ability to beat a man. His contribution is key, just like all the other players.

"Obviously, I won't complain about who I have available. Complaining doesn't help you qualify. We'll have 11 players out on the pitch, which is all that is needed to win matches.

"As for the younger players, if they're part of a club like ours then they must always be prepared. There may be an opportunity for some of them to show what they can do." 

Inter's game against Milan could have huge implications for the Champions League qualification chances of both sides.

"We must focus on tomorrow's match before thinking about the derby," Spalletti added. 

"We have the ability to win tomorrow and those that play must be motivated, being fully aware of the game's importance.

"It's a knockout tie and we must make the right decisions to ensure that we don't pay a dear price. We must make the most of our experience in Europe so far."

Luciano Spalletti implored Inter to shed their San Siro shyness after a largely restrained 2-0 home win over SPAL on Sunday.

Second-half goals from Matteo Politano and Roberto Gagliardini secured the Nerazzurri their first victory in four matches in all competitions and established a six-point buffer to fifth-place Roma.

The result also kept city rivals AC Milan in close quarters ahead of next weekend's blockbuster Derby della Madonnina.

Miranda and Marcelo Brozovic could miss that match after sustaining nose and thigh injuries respectively versus SPAL, against whom they were already without Radja Nainggolan, Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Spalletti, though, sees bigger concerns with his team's timidity on their home turf, Inter having taken until winger Politano's 67th-minute opener to find their groove.

"Despite our absences, 11 players worthy of Inter headed out onto the pitch today," Spalletti said.

"We struggled a bit with the emotions at the start and this must not happen. We knew we had to win and once our fire started to burn inside then we broke the deadlock and went on to win.

"We were a bit timid and insecure during the first half. The lads had a different conviction after our second goal and we regained our characteristics. In the second half I could see what we were really about. 

"I know my players well and at times we're held back by our emotions. We need the courage to make choices.

"We're here to win while wearing this shirt. We have to achieve this because only by doing this can you be a part of Inter."

Star striker Icardi, who claims a knee problem is preventing him from training, was not seen at San Siro amid an ongoing contract dispute.

The 26-year-old has not featured since being stripped of the captaincy in February and Spalletti is reluctant to discuss his situation any further.

"I won't talk about him, because whatever I say gets interpreted in every way possible," he said.

"We have a common goal, which is victory. It is victories and performances that determine whether you can be an Inter player."

Lautaro Martinez, Inter's starting striker in Icardi's absence, is suspended for Thursday's second-leg encounter against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League last 16.

Mauro Icardi is not in Inter's squad to face SPAL on Sunday.

Icardi has not played for Inter since being stripped of the captaincy, with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic named his replacement.

The striker has claimed he is receiving treatment on a knee injury, but Inter said tests found no specific issue.

Inter released a statement this week confirming "cordial" talks had been held with Icardi and his agent, Wanda Nara, who is also his wife.

But despite speculation that meeting had paved the way for Icardi to play against SPAL, he is not in Spallett's squad.

 

Also absent is Radja Nainggolan, with the midfielder expected to miss the Milan derby later this month due to a calf injury.

Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan is expected to miss the Milan derby next weekend, according to coach Luciano Spalletti.

Nainggolan is out with a calf injury and not likely to return in time for the March 17 clash between the local rivals, which will likely be key for the Champions League hopes of Inter and AC Milan.

The Nerazzurri will look to end a three-game winless run in all competitions when SPAL visit San Siro on Sunday, and they could have Keita Balde Diao and Ivan Perisic, who hobbled off in the Europa League draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, available.

"The latest news is that [Perisic] will be available, just like Keita," he told reporters on Saturday. 

"Nainggolan, on the other hand, hasn't fully recovered, and I don't expect to see him back in time for the derby.

"But we'll evaluate him day by day. We can't say much more at the moment."

It is unclear whether Mauro Icardi will play against SPAL, Inter having released a statement on Wednesday revealing the club has held "cordial" talks with the striker and his agent.

Icardi has not played for the club since being stripped of the captaincy, claiming to be suffering from a knee injury, though Inter said tests found no specific issue.

Spalletti made the decision to give Samir Handanovic the armband and has no information on when the Argentina international will be back.

"I haven't received any more updates," he added. "But [chief executive Giuseppe] Marotta is the best man to handle this situation for all parties involved.

"There are things that need clarifying and with all of his experience, he'll be able to look after all parties. It's right that you ask him.

"For me, time is running out before the end of the season and we need to make the most of the time left to get results, so my focus is on matters on the pitch."

Mauro Icardi has been cleared to train by Inter's medical staff but the former captain said "I'll tell you when I feel ready to play", according to head coach Luciano Spalletti.

Icardi has not played for Inter since he was stripped of the captaincy and replaced by team-mate Samir Handanovic amid uncertainty over his future.

The 26-year-old star – who has asked for more respect from the Serie A club – complained of knee pain after missing the Europa League win at Rapid Vienna on February 13, though Inter could not identify any specific problem.

Icardi was once again absent on Thursday as Inter played out a goalless draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

Asked about Icardi post-match, Spalletti told reporters: "The truth is that we asked Mauro if he felt like resuming training.

"The doctor said that in his view the necessary period for treatment had terminated. He replied: 'No, I still feel pain. I'll tell you when I feel ready to play'.

"I acknowledged what he said and went back home. The director [Beppe Marotta] will tell you the rest."

Icardi – contracted until 2021 – has scored 15 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season but has not played since the 1-0 Serie A win over Parma on February 9.

He has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, Napoli, Manchester United.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni explained Mauro Icardi was not considered for selection in his latest squad due to the Inter striker's "complicated situation" at club level.

Icardi has been left out of Inter's last five matchday squads after being stripped of the captaincy last month, and speculation over his future at San Siro persists.

The 26-year-old posted a lengthy statement on Instagram last week in which he questioned whether Inter's decision-makers were showing him respect, although he professed his love for the club and claimed to have previously rejected several significant offers.

Despite his affection for the Nerazzurri, Icardi and Inter have been unable to reach an agreement over a new contract, raising the possibility that he has played his last game for the club.

That situation has now impacted Icardi's international career, as Scaloni wished to keep such potential distractions well away from his squad for the friendlies with Venezuela and Morocco, with Lionel Messi involved for the first time since the World Cup.

"Mauro's present situation is complicated," Scaloni told a news conference. "That is evident and we cannot be part of his present.

"He takes decisions with his people and his club and then we take our own decisions. It is not convenient for the national team, Mauro's current situation.  

"We have to take decisions and this time he won't be with us. If later he will go to the Copa America or not, we will see in the next few months.

"Our line is always the same, to call players for a reason and Mauro is in a complicated situation.

"I talked to him. He understood very well.

"I was a player and I don't like to get involved in situations like this one. I prefer to wait until he solves his situation and later we'll decide what to do."

Lionel Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time in almost nine months, although Sergio Aguero has been left out.

Messi has not played for his country since the 2018 World Cup, where Jorge Sampaoli's side lost to eventual winners France in the last 16.

Sampaoli's successor Lionel Scaloni has been unable to call upon the Barcelona captain for any of Argentina's matches since taking charge.

But Messi will soon make his international return as he is in the Argentina squad for upcoming friendly matches against Venezuela and Morocco.

There is no room for Aguero, however, with Scaloni favouring Lautaro Martinez, Giovanni Simeone and Dario Benedetto over the Manchester City star.

Inter striker Mauro Icardi also misses out, as he has not played for his club since February 9 amid a stand-off that began with him being stripped of the captaincy.

Gonzalo Higuain is another high-profile attacking omission. Like Aguero, Chelsea's on-loan Juventus striker has not been involved for the Albiceleste since Russia 2018.

Scaloni has once again taken the opportunity to shuffle his pack and call up a host of uncapped players.

Goalkeepers Esteban Andrada and Juan Musso could feature for the first time, while Gonzalo Montiel and Lisandro Martinez are newcomers in defence.

Midfielder Matias Zaracho has been called up before, but the 20-year-old winger is still hoping for a debut cap, while Ivan Marcone and Domingo Blanco are similarly inexperienced on the international stage.

The new face among the forwards is Matias Suarez, a 30-year-old attacker who has scored three times in six league games for River Plate since joining from Belgrano in January.

There is also a return for Manuel Lanzini, who has not featured for Argentina since damaging knee ligaments in a World Cup warm-up match against Haiti last May.

Argentina will compete in the Copa America this year, having been drawn in Group B alongside Colombia, Paraguay and special guests Qatar.

Messi and Argentina have been on the losing side in each of the past two Copa America finals, beaten by Chile on penalties on both occasions.

Lionel Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time in almost nine months, although Sergio Aguero has been left out.

Messi has not played for his country since the 2018 World Cup, where Jorge Sampaoli's side lost to eventual winners France in the last 16.

Sampaoli's successor Lionel Scaloni has been unable to call upon the Barcelona captain for any of Argentina's matches since taking charge.

But Messi will soon make his international return as he is in the Argentina squad for upcoming friendly matches against Venezuela and Morocco.

There is no room for Aguero, however, with Scaloni favouring Lautaro Martinez, Giovanni Simeone and Dario Benedetto over the Manchester City star.

Inter striker Mauro Icardi also misses out, as he has not played for his club since February 9 amid a stand-off that began with him being stripped of the captaincy.

Gonzalo Higuain is another high-profile attacking omission. Like Aguero, Chelsea's on-loan Juventus striker has not been involved for the Albiceleste since Russia 2018.

 

Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti says it is always a "displeasure" when players miss out on big matches.

The Serie A side are without Radja Nainggolan for Thursday's Europa League trip to Eintracht Frankfurt due to a calf injury and it is unclear whether Mauro Icardi is available.

Icardi has not played for the club since being stripped of the captaincy last month, but Inter said on Wednesday a "cordial" meeting has been held with the player and his agent, Wanda Nara, who is also the Argentina attacker's wife.

The striker is reportedly suffering from a knee injury but Inter have indicated medical tests failed to diagnose a specific problem.

And when asked about Nainggolan's absence for the Eintracht game, Spalletti appeared to make a veiled comment about Icardi.

"The game is very important and obviously any player who misses it, it becomes a displeasure," he told a news conference ahead of Thursday's first leg.

"But what more devastates me is the absence of off-list players, to tell them that they cannot be there. This is the real thing that saddens.

"On the field then it is always Inter: but regardless of who is missing, the team will always have this name and will have to assert the principles of being a strong team."

Asked specifically about the Icardi situation, Spalletti added: "There are always things that do not go as you would like.

"When wearing the colours of Inter, and important teams in general, you need to know how to manage the pitfalls that emerge with the role.

"It's down to us to show what is needed out on the pitch."

Inter head to Frankfurt on the back of a 2-1 Serie A defeat to Cagliari that saw Spalletti's side slip down to fourth in the table, behind city rivals AC Milan.

"We're here to compete on the international stage, with the experience of past matches that can help us tomorrow," Spalletti continued. "The difference will be made by our decision-making and our desire to fight.

"We know the strengths and weaknesses of Eintracht. It will depend a lot on our game management. We have what it takes to perform and also to show that bit extra to impress.

"Tomorrow, I expect a great test in terms of character and a response to what happened in Cagliari." 

Mauro Icardi and his wife and agent Wanda Nara held a "cordial" meeting with Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta as they seek a resolution to the saga surrounding the striker.

Icardi has been left out of Inter's last five matchday squads after being stripped of the captaincy last month, and speculation over his future at San Siro persists.

The Argentina international posted a lengthy statement on Instagram last week in which he questioned whether Inter's decision-makers were showing him respect, although he professed his love for the club and claimed to have previously rejected several significant offers.

Despite his affection for the Nerazzurri, Icardi and Inter have been unable to reach an agreement over a new contract, raising the likelihood that he has played his last game for the club.

Nara recently dismissed a report in Marca that her outspoken nature put Real Madrid off a move for Icardi, who now appears to have at least taken a step towards resolving the situation.

In a post on their Twitter account, the club wrote: "Inter's Sport CEO Giuseppe Marotta today held a cordial meeting with Mauro Icardi and Wanda Nara in search of a solution to satisfy the best interests of all involved."

Icardi's deal, which reportedly contains a relatively low release clause of €110million, has two and a half years left to run.

He has scored 15 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season but has not played since the 1-0 Serie A win over Parma on February 9.

The former Sampdoria striker complained of knee pain after missing the Europa League win at Rapid Vienna, with head coach Luciano Spalletti saying Icardi had withdrawn from the squad himself before Inter issued a statement in which they stated medical tests could not identify any specific problem.

Inter lost 2-1 to Cagliari on Friday in Icardi's absence and are fourth in Serie A, a point behind rivals AC Milan in third and three clear of fifth-placed Roma.

Wanda Nara has denied suggestions that Real Madrid have not bid for Mauro Icardi because the club were put off negotiations due to her behaviour.

Icardi's future at Inter is looking increasingly bleak, with the striker having been left out of their last five matchday squads after being stripped of the captaincy last month.

The Argentina international posted a lengthy statement on Instagram this week in which he accused Inter's decision-makers of a lack of respect, although he underlined his love for the club and claimed he has rejected several significant offers in the past.

Despite his affection for the Nerazzurri, it appears likely that the club will sell the striker in the next transfer window, having been unable to reach an agreement over a new contract.

Madrid have long been linked with a bid for the 26-year-old but, according to Marca, they were put off entering into talks last January as they did not want to deal with Nara, Icardi's outspoken wife and agent.

However, when the same Spanish newspaper asked her about that report, Nara said: "That Mauro hasn't gone to Madrid because of me, as has been said in Spain, is false and we have a lot of respect for Real Madrid."

Icardi, who joined Inter from Sampdoria in 2013, is said to have been in discussions over a contract extension for much of the last year.

He has two and a half years left on the deal he signed in October 2016, which reportedly contains a relatively low release clause of €110million.

Icardi has scored 15 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season but has not played since the 1-0 Serie A win over Parma on February 9.

He complained of knee pain after missing the Europa League win at Rapid Vienna, when head coach Luciano Spalletti said Icardi had withdrawn from the squad himself, but Inter issued a statement to say medical tests could not identify any specific problem.

In Icardi's absence, Inter were beaten 2-1 by Cagliari on Friday.

Lautaro Martinez said it is up to Inter team-mate Mauro Icardi to resolve his problems amid the former captain's continued absence.

Icardi hit out at Inter's treatment of him in an explosive social media post after he was stripped of the captaincy last month.

The 26-year-old star has not played for Inter since he lost the captain's armband to goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

Icardi missed Friday's 2-1 Serie A defeat away to Cagliari and fellow Argentinian Martinez – who had equalised for Inter – told Sky Sport Italia: "Mauro is very important for us, but we can't do anything about it.

"It's up to him to resolve his problems. All we can do is wait and try to win."

Icardi – who is contracted to Inter until 2021 – has been linked with Italian champions Juventus, Napoli, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.

With Icardi absent against Cagliari, Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti introduced centre-back Andrea Ranocchia as a striker with the visitors chasing a late equaliser.

Asked if Ranocchia's introduction up front highlighted a lack of options, Spalletti appeared to take aim at Icardi.

"I can say the same things again, as if there's a way of helping Inter and showing how much you care about Inter, then you should be on the field," said Spalletti, whose Inter could lose third spot to city rivals AC Milan on Saturday.

Luciano Spalletti did not hold back in his criticism of Inter after a 2-1 Serie A loss at Cagliari, describing his side as "terrible".

After a controversial 3-3 draw at Fiorentina last time out, Inter dropped points again at Sardegna Arena on Friday.

Although Lautaro Martinez's header cancelled out Cagliari captain Luca Ceppitelli's opener, Leonardo Pavoletti's superb volley won the points for Rolando Maran's side.

And with Inter opening the door to Roma and AC Milan in the race for Champions League qualification, Spalletti was left annoyed by the Nerazzurri's display in the opening 45 minutes.

"Let's not get into details. Inter were terrible in the first half," Spalletti told Sky Sport Italia.

"We were slow in our decision-making, we hesitated, moved the ball too slowly, were not prepared to pounce where the ball fell. We didn't win enough individual duels and didn't do enough.

"Cagliari scored very good goals and created them by running in front of the defender so they could anticipate the cross. We have these capabilities too, but we didn't make the most of them. It also looks as if on the Luca Ceppitelli goal there was a deflection off Ivan Perisic."

Inter were again without Mauro Icardi, the striker having not played since being replaced as club captain by Samir Handanovic, with Keita Balde Diao another absentee.

In a pre-match interview, Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta denied a "split" with Icardi but there has been speculation in the media over the severity of the Argentina international's supposed injury.

Icardi used social media to complain of a perceived lack of love and respect from Inter ahead of the Cagliari game but Spalletti's mood was not improved by the line of questioning taken in his interview.

"Why do you put the questions over Icardi and Keita differently?" Spalletti said. 

"Why do you ask about how long it will take Keita to recover, but phrase it differently for Icardi's absence? They are both injured and now have a couple of days to finish their treatment.

"You are suggesting there's something wrong in his behaviour, otherwise you would treat both situations the same way.

"If you don't find it convincing, that's your problem."

Inter return to action on Thursday, travelling to Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their last-16 Europa League tie.

Leonardo Pavoletti's tremendous volley earned Cagliari a 2-1 Serie A home win against Inter, with the Nerazzurri once more without deposed captain Mauro Icardi.

Icardi was not included in Luciano Spalletti's squad amid an ongoing rift between club and player, with Inter again dropping points in the absence of their star striker after a contentious 3-3 draw at Fiorentina last time out.

Luca Ceppitelli's header gave Cagliari the lead at Sardegna Arena on Friday but Icardi's replacement Lautaro Martinez hit back in the 38th minute.

Pavoletti's excellent effort lifted Cagliari nine points clear of the Serie A relegation zone as the Icardi-Inter row rumbles on, although Alessio Cragno had to brilliantly keep out Martinez with five minutes before Nicolo Barella missed a stoppage-time penalty for the hosts.

Cagliari had lost four of their past five Serie A games but made a bright start with Artur Ionita heading wide before new Inter captain Samir Handanovic brilliantly saved from Pavoletti.

The hosts took a deserved lead in the 31st minute, Ceppitelli beating Ivan Perisic in the air to flick home a dangerous free-kick from Luca Cigarini.

With Inter reeling it should have been 2-0 moments later, Paolo Farago blazing over an open goal after Handanovic made a sensational stop from Joao Pedro's header.

But Martinez had Inter level. Radja Nainggolan's right-wing centre was ideally placed for Icardi's compatriot and deputy to flick a terrific near-post header through the legs of goalkeeper Cragno.

Cagliari retook the lead before the break, though, a wonderful cross on the run from veteran right-back Darijo Srna met with a stunning Pavoletti volley that rifled into Handanovic's bottom-left corner.

Cragno saved from Matteo Politano in the 55th minute as Inter sought a fightback, with substitute Borja Valero wasteful and Martinez having a powerful late strike somehow pushed on to the woodwork by the Cagliari goalkeeper. 

Rolando Maran's men closed out a memorable victory, though it could have been more comfortable as Barella smashed a spot-kick over the crossbar in the 92nd minute after Milan Skriniar needlessly brought down Kiril Despodov.
 

What does it mean? Inter dragged into top-four battle

The Nerazzurri seemed certain to finish third until recently but one point from two games is a sorry return that has opened the door to the chasing pack.

Roma and city rivals AC Milan are now within striking distance of Inter as the race for Champions League qualification hots up. Cagliari, meanwhile, are almost assured of safety for another year.


Pavoletti reaches double figures

Prolific Pavoletti was Cagliari's hero for the second home game in a row, the 30-year-old having scored both goals in their previous match at the Sardegna Arena to down Parma 2-1.

Pavoletti has been in the Italy squad on a couple of occasions but a maiden cap is surely now on the cards for the in-form former Napoli man, whose stunning winner was his 10th Serie A goal of the season, ensuring he has now hit double figures in the league two years in a row.


Icardi saga distracting Inter

Using Instagram to hit out at Inter for a perceived lack of love and respect in the build-up to this game was not the wisest decision from Icardi.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta voiced his frustration with the saga in a pre-match interview and, although deputy Martinez scored again, Inter coach Spalletti will want a conclusion to this disruptive row sooner rather than later.


What's next?

Inter head to Eintracht Frankfurt for the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on Thursday before taking on SPAL at San Siro three days later. Cagliari go to struggling Bologna a week on Sunday.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta has denied there is a "split" with deposed captain Mauro Icardi.

The striker hit out at his treatment at the hands of the Serie A club with an explosive social media post this week.

Icardi, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, was stripped of the Inter captaincy last month and has not played for the club since being replaced by goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

"I do not know at this moment if there is love and respect towards Inter and towards me by some who make the decisions," he wrote in a lengthy Instagram post.

The Argentina international has also used social media to post photographs where he is receiving treatment for a supposed injury.

Icardi was once more absent from the Inter squad for Friday's Serie A game at Cagliari, with Marotta losing patience with the ongoing row being played out in the media

"We have already said a lot about the Icardi topic: today we are in Cagliari to face an important game and the club's focus is all on the pitch," he told Sky Sport Italia. 

"These are internal dynamics. I don't feel there is a need to fix anything, as there has been no split. There is absolutely no split.

"I prefer to speak of Cagliari, since we are already angry after the draw against Fiorentina.

"I never talked about the possible sale of Icardi. Football is a team sport and not an individual sport.

"I can say that we are very united: club, leadership and coach. We only care about the growth of Inter."

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