Spalletti backs 'exceptional' Perisic to come good

The winger attracted interest from Manchester United last summer but has found the going tough of late

Luciano Spalletti has defended winger Ivan Perisic, backing the "exceptional" talent to come good.

The 29-year-old Croatia international has struggled to find his best form in recent weeks, leading to criticism from certain quarters.

A target for Manchester United last summer, the former Dortmund man's dip is natural, though, according to the ex-Roma coach.

"He has exceptional, indisputable quality, but it is not easy to always play at his maximum level because every footballer, even the best, will have times when they can't make the most of their ability," Spalletti said. 

"I would always want to have a player like Ivan in my team. I have faith in him as man and as a footballer."

Just as Perisic's form has faded in recent times, so too has that of his club, with Inter earning only two league wins in their last 11 outings, leaving them work to do to secure Champions League football next term.

Consequently, the coach challenged his Inter players to replicate their performance against Napoli for the remainder of the season as they chase a spot in Serie A's top four.

After holding the title challengers to a 0-0 draw at San Siro last time out, fifth-placed Inter travel to Sampdoria on Sunday for a pivotal game in their campaign.

Spalletti believes the performance against Maurizio Sarri's side demonstrated how Inter can compete with the best - and now wants more of the same for their remaining 11 league fixtures.

"You qualify for the Champions League with matches like this," he told the media.

"I expect character, but the match against Napoli tested our qualities and showed us that in certain matches we are able to find the right ingredients to play big-game football.

"It's essential to repeat it and demonstrate the same qualities again - it has to become a habit. We need to become a strong team and we are looking to put together all our best characteristics to get there.

"Things have visibly changed over the last two matches, so I'm already expecting that tomorrow I will see more progress along this route.

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"Our opponents will make life difficult for us but we need to have the strength to play 11 matches at a certain level.

"From now until the end of the season, we cannot play at anything less than our best, we can't make any more mistakes."

Inter currently lie fifth in Serie A, one point behind Lazio.