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The young Italian emphasised the significance of the threat posed by Massimiliano Allegri's men, as the race for European qualification hots up

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni believes the February derby clash against city rivals and fellow Champions League-chasing AC Milan could define the fortunes of their season.

In 2013, the Nerazzurri have not reached the heights which saw them put together a 10-match winning run late last year.

However, Stramaccioni is optimistic that his men could enter the fixture against their resurgent neighbours on an upturn of form.

"We are going through a strange period," Stramaccioni conceded to reporters on the eve of their encounter with Chievo.

"Recent performances have been unsatisfactory, but we are working to improve them and our results.

"AC Milan are going through a good spell and climbing up to where we are, so there will be a lot to play for in the derby. We're aware we'll be fighting for an important objective till the end."

Inter were humbled 3-1 by relegation threatened Siena last week despite handing Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Ezequiel Schelotto and Mateo Kovacic their competitive debuts.

But Stramaccioni has backed his new signings to soon find their feet.

"Schelotto did not do badly against Siena. He hasn't played much recently, so it takes time to adapt. We signed some new players to help us improve. Kovacic is very talented," the 37-year-old continued.

"He's very young, but his career so far says it all. He could be in the starting XI tomorrow."

The precocious teenage playmaker completed the switch to San Siro for a reported fee of €11 million in January.

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