(Reuters) - Antonio Conte says the period of reflection that followed Inter Milan’s early Champions League exit has helped his side in their bid to end an 11-year wait to win Serie A.
The Nerazzurri went seven points clear at the top of the standings on Sunday thanks to a 3-0 win over Genoa, extending their unbeaten league run to eight games.
But Conte’s side disappointed in Europe, winning one of six games to finish bottom of their group.
The coach, however, believes there was a silver lining to their early elimination.
“It’s inevitable that we have to have the ambition to win, that is clear due to the history of the club,” he told Sky Italia.
“This season I think the disappointment of going out of the Champions League in an undeserved way made us look inside ourselves and understand that we needed to raise the level of everything to try and be more competitive.”
Conte led Inter to second place in his debut season as coach last year, finishing one point behind Juventus as the Turin club clinched a ninth consecutive title.
The 51-year-old, who won five Serie A titles with Juve as a player and three as a coach, was pleased with his team's continued development after they opened up a 10-point gap over the reigning Italian champions.
“The work is paying off and paid off last year too,” he added.
“We are a team that is growing on a collective and individual level, in when to be aggressive off the ball and when to hold the ball.
"We are maturing a lot, but we know well that there are 14 games to go."
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Toby Davis)