Stramaccioni still focused on Champions League

The young trainer is adamant Inter's Champions League hopes have not yet been dashed, and says Tomasso Rocchi will step up to the challenge of scoring goals in Palacio's absence
Andrea Stramaccioni is refusing to admit that Inter Milan's quest for Champions League qualification is beyond them.

The Nerazzurri bridged the gap to third-placed Milan to seven points with a 2-0 victory over Sampdoria on Wednesday, a result which has reignited the coach's belief that Inter's pursuit of Champions League football is not over.

The Italian giants welcome Atalanta to San Siro on Sunday, and Stramaccioni is hoping victory over Stefano Colantuono's side can act as a first step on the road to securing a spot in the European competition.

"If we were to beat Atalanta, the race [for third] is still open and I have faith. I don't want to hear that it's over," he told reporters on Saturday.

"We are angry and we want to win in front of our fans. There is great desire to vent this anger tomorrow. We trained well and it will be a key game.

"The boys are ready for it and I have not seen any loss of motivation within the squad. It is an important result for us tomorrow and our fans understand the significance."

However, the 37-year-old will be without the influence of forward's Rodrigo Palacio for the visit of Atalanta. Palacio, who has netted Inter's last five goals, is set for at least a month on the sidelines, but Stramaccioni says he will not allow bad luck to dictate his team's fortunes for the remainder of the season.

"We will not surrender to misfortune. The team is solid and these are the moments where we must respond well. Losing Palacio is a heavy blow, but we can do nothing to bring him back sooner," said the Inter boss.

In addition to Palacio, Diego Militio is also unavailable to Stramaccioni having being ruled out for six months, prompting the coach to experiment with Antonio Cassano and Tomasso Rocchi - without a goal in over a year - in training ahead of the match.

"Rocchi will be ready when called upon and his experience will certainly be of use to us. He is a penalty-box player, while Cassano has many other characteristics. We will choose a situation and evaluate the situation," he added.

If successful in beating Atalanta, Inter resume their push for Champions League qualification with a visit to Cagliari next Sunday.