Antonio Conte believes the Serie A title is “95 per cent” decided after Inter’s slender 1-0 win over Hellas Verona on Sunday.
The Nerrazzuri were far from their fluid best at San Siro, but sealed a 13th consecutive home league win for the second time in their history thanks to Matteo Darmian’s goal 14 minutes from full-time.
The result moved Inter 13 points clear at the top of the table with five games remaining, although neighbours Milan can scale that back to 10 with victory over Lazio on Monday.
Conte is in no doubt his side will wrap up a first Scudetto since the 2009-10 season, but acknowledged some of his players have been feeling the pressure of the situation.
“The ball is heavier now, many players have never lived this situation and it’s undeniable a few players have been affected by this,” Conte told DAZN.
“We played two good games against Napoli and Spezia [they drew both 1-1]. They said we had stopped ourselves, but it wasn’t this like that.
“Managing to win this season makes these footballers become winners. Never forget the others are dropping points. We have been consistent.
“Sometimes we suffer a little bit more, but we are keeping our foot on the gas pedal.”
Conte sprinted to celebrate with his players after Darmian’s goal and said he was motivated by the Serie A title being within touching distance.
“It’s easy to explain. In that run, I see 95 per cent of the Scudetto,” he added.
“I think it was an important win. We haven’t won it yet, but it was important to win against a team that can create trouble; a very physical team that had nothing to lose.
“We’ve worked a lot over the last two seasons. As I said many times, Inter haven’t been competitive for a long time. We tried [to win] last season. This term, we are close, but we need to work both on a mental and a footballing level.
“Sometimes I am heavy, but I found few people who can be both winners and light hearted. The path is extremely complicated. It takes hard work and sacrifice.”
Inter limited Verona to just a solitary shot on target as they stretched their unbeaten Serie A home record against Ivan Juric’s side to a club record 30 games, surpassing their 29-match unbeaten against Palermo.
Conte highlighted the contribution of Stefan de Vrij, Alessandro Bastoni and Milan Skriniar, comparing them to the heralded triumvirate of Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgino Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, who he coached at Juventus.
“When, in my first year at Juventus, I coached Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, they were young, and they had won nothing before,” he said.
“We have begun a new project here, and I can see many similarities with De Vrij, Bastoni and Skriniar.
“If we win this season, they will begin a path where the Scudetto can bring more self-esteem. Never forget, Bonucci, Chiellini and Barzagli were virgins in terms of victories when I arrived.
“At Chelsea, it was different. Some players had already won, they had more experience.”