Spalletti defends Inter progress ahead of 'semi-final' with Sassuolo

Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti has defended his record at the club ahead of Saturday's key Serie A game against Sassuolo.

Spalletti's men enjoyed a 16-game unbeaten run at the start of the season, but their inconsistent form since December has left them scrapping for a top-four finish.

A win at San Siro on Saturday will ensure the Nerazzurri head into the crucial final match against Lazio with their Champions League hopes still in their hands.

Fifth-place Inter are two points behind Simone Inzaghi's side and could finish as high as third if Roma fail to win either of their last two games.

And Spalletti insists there has been definite progress at the club and is content with the way they have closed the gap to the best teams in Italy.

"Yes, because I had the knowledge of who our opponents were, of the strength that Juventus, Napoli, Roma and the other protagonists have," he told a news conference.

"Last year, Inter had 16 fewer points than Roma and much fewer in general than the others, and now the numbers tell a decidedly different story.

"As coach, I'm happy with what we've been doing. We've made progress, there have been times when we've struggled but we're close now to being a strong side.

"We started with a gap we had to bridge, to see if there was any chance of competing with the two teams immediately above us."

Spalletti sees the visit of Sassuolo as a "semi-final" for their league season ahead of the trip to Rome next week.

"This is like a semi-final for us," he said. "It's been a long season and now we have a kind-of semi-final, which can put us in a position to play a final against Lazio."

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