Icardi ban is Gabigol's opportunity - Pioli

Inter have a selection dilemma against Empoli with their captain and top scorer suspended, but their coach has put his faith in the Brazil striker

Stefano Pioli says Mauro Icardi's two-match ban can be Gabigol's opportunity to break into his first-team plans as Inter prepare to host Empoli on Sunday.

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The captain and Ivan Perisic are suspended for two matches after the controversial defeat to Juventus last weekend – punishments the club are appealing against – while Marcelo Brozovic is injured.

The loss of Icardi, who has started all 23 of Inter's Serie A matches, leaves coach Pioli with a selection dilemma in attack.

He would not reveal his decision, but did say Gabigol who is still waiting for his first league start having joined in a deal reportedly worth €29.5 million from Santos last August, was one possibility. 

"Icardi is an important player for us, as are Perisic and Brozovic, but now we have a chance to show our quality as a squad," said Pioli.

"It is not true that we don't have a replacement for Icardi: with Andrea Pinamonti, Eder, Rodrigo Palacio and Barbosa I have plenty of options. 

"We know what each of them can do. Gabigol starting? We will see. We can play with a traditional centre-forward or with a more mobile player. 

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"Eder and Palacio both have great movement, for example. It depends on the game and how our opponents set up.

"I will decide on our line-up over the next day or so."

Pioli was angry with referee Nicola Rizzoli after the Juve defeat, but insists his players are fully concentrated on Empoli, a match they need to win with Napoli now six points better off in the third and final Champions League spot.

He added: "I have already said what I had to say about the match last Sunday. 

"The lads have cut themselves off from everything that has gone on this week. It is not the first time we have seen something like this when big clubs are involved. Since Monday we have been focused on nothing but Empoli.

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"This game against Empoli is really important. We must be fired up for it and switched on if we want to start winning again and go on another run.

"We can decide our own fate – there are 15 matches left to play and we must win a lot of them if we want to finish in the top three.

"There is not much difference between us and the sides at the very top.

"Defeats hurt but it is precisely when you lose a game that you need to show your togetherness. I expect to see a reaction."

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