Inter left to focus on the league after another European flop

Inter finished bottom of Group B following a 0-0 draw at home to Shakhtar Donetsk and will not even have the distraction of the second-string Europa League.

Inter's main rivals in Serie A - AC Milan, Juventus, Lazio, Atalanta and AS Roma have all qualified for the knockout stages of European competition while Napoli is close to booking its place.   -  GETTY IMAGES

One of the oldest cliches in football is that elimination from European competition can allow a team to concentrate on the league, and it is one with which Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte will be especially familiar.

Conte has struggled to match his impressive domestic record with success in the Champions League, a reputation which was reinforced after Inter was knocked out in the group stage for the second time in a row under his leadership on Wednesday.

Inter finished bottom of Group B following a 0-0 draw at home to Shakhtar Donetsk and will not even have the distraction of the second-string Europa League.

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Instead, it will be able to focus all its energy on winning Serie A for the first time since 2010, starting with its visit to Cagliari on Sunday.

Inter is second in the table with 21 points, five behind leader AC Milan, and is topscorers with 26 goals.

Although it is a jaded cliche, focusing on the league could indeed be a bonus for Inter as the fixture pileup resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic makes European competition even more of a burden than usual.

Inter's main rivals AC Milan, Juventus, Lazio, Atalanta and AS Roma have all qualified for the knockout stages of European competition while Napoli is close to booking its place.

Inter also has greater strength in depth over its rival, apart from Juventus, mainly because of Conte's constant complaints last season about the squad being too thin.

"There is no time to sit and mope. We have to focus on the league. Were up against Cagliari on Sunday and we must now turn our attention to that," said goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. "Evidently, Inter are not yet ready for the Champions League."

Even so, Conte's irritable reaction to Inter's elimination shows that his poor Champions League record still rankles.

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The 51-year-old won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus but the best he could do in the Champions League was a quarter-final.

He also won the English Premier League in his first season with Chelsea but it was knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona in the round of 16 the following campaign.

Last year, he led Inter to second in Serie A, with the team having not finished higher since 2010, but again it went out of the Champions League in the group stage.

His overall record in the Champions League is 12 wins, 11 draws and 11 defeats, with only three wins in 12 games at Inter.