Inter has to pick itself up after tough 6 weeks

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              Inter Milan's players react at the end of the Champions League, Group B soccer match between Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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MILAN (AP) — At the start of November the mood was buoyant at Inter Milan.

A run of seven successive wins had the Nerazzurri within touch of Serie A leader Juventus.

Plus, they were second to Barcelona in their Champions League group.

Now, the mood is no longer buoyant. Far from it.

Inter has dropped from six points behind Juventus to 14.

And on Tuesday it was dumped from the Champions League after drawing with PSV Eindhoven at home 1-1.

This is no time to panic nor drop heads, goalkeeper Samir Handanovic says.

“Today is a new day and we’re now looking ahead,” Handanovic says. “We’re back in action on Saturday, and playing and winning is the best medicine in situations like this.

“We’ve played well in recent games, but unfortunately we haven’t managed to pick up the results we wanted. We need to find that spark again.”

Inter has had that spark mainly when midfielder Radja Nainggolan has been playing. But he has played only in fits and starts since the end of October when he injured an ankle. It is no coincidence Inter’s slump has occurred in his absence.

Fellow midfielder Matias Vecino has also missed the past two matches, and without he and Nainggolan Inter has missed a creative force.

And not only that, but also their wisdom and poise. Coach Luciano Spalletti has tried to make up for that but his urgings for calm from the sidelines only go so far. On Tuesday, after going behind PSV early, Inter took an hour to overcome its panic and frenzied play.

“We need to stay calm and commit fewer errors,” Spalletti says. “We need to do what comes naturally to top teams.

“We need to play in the opposing half and get around what the other team sets up, passing the ball around calmly and making the opposition run before picking our moment. We still need to work on that.”

In his first season, Spalletti led Inter into the Champions League for the first time in seven years. He is contracted to 2021 and his job appears safe. However, that hasn’t stopped speculation about a new coach for next season with the usual suspects picked out: Antonio Conte, Diego Simeone, and Jose Mourinho — who led Inter to the treble in 2010.

Former Juventus CEO and director general Giuseppe Marotta was officially appointed as CEO for sport by Inter’s board on Thursday and he could yet have a significant impact on the second half of the season.

Marotta’s market moves were an important part of Juve’s run of seven straight Serie A titles. He joined the Bianconeri from Sampdoria in 2010 and brought in Conte as coach the following year.

For now, Spalletti and his players have Udinese to face on Saturday at San Siro. They are still competing in Serie A and the Italian Cup, and have the Europa League in the new year.

“Our season is still the same. It’s not a new season,” Spalletti says.

“We need to build on what we’ve done so far because we started well. We need to keep the focus high to achieve big results and we need to start on that right away. That’s part of being a top team, too, the way we react after this. That’ll show whether we’ve matured or not.”