Benitez: There is room for improvement
© AFP

UEFA Champions League winners Inter Milan still have some way to go before they are ready to begin the defence of their Serie A title, claims coach Rafael Benitez.

The former Liverpool manager, who signed a two-year contract in June, said that the two-week preparation in the United States had been good for the squad but that there was still work to do ahead of their opening match with Bologna on 30 August.

"The players had to improve their physical condition," said Benitez, who replaced Jose Mourinho in the hotseat after the Portuguese coach left for Real Madrid.

"That was not easy as the players who were involved in the World Cup finals and arrived late as a result, but overall we are happy now with their state and we can now focus on the tactics," added Benitez, who faces an unenviable task of following Mourinho's achievements of last season in landing the domestic double and the UEFA Champions League.

Benitez, who failed to build on his initial success at Liverpool in winning the 2005 UEFA Champions League, said that he saw Inter's strategy as hitting teams on the counter-attack.

The players had to improve their physical condition. That was not easy as the players who were involved in the World Cup finals and arrived late as a result, but overall we are happy now with their state and we can now focus on the tactics.
Rafael Benitez, Inter Milan coach

"If we can improve in our pressurising of our opponents when they have the ball and score three goals immediately on counter-attacking that would be a good thing," said Benitez, who made his name as Valencia coach guiding them to two league titles and the UEFA Cup during his time there.

Benitez reiterated how important 28-year-old Brazilian defender and one-time Real Madrid transfer target Maicon was to the club.

"Maicon is without doubt a good player and he was the difference in several matches last season," said the 50-year-old Spaniard. "For us he is an important player. We know that Real Madrid were interested in him but I repeat, for us, he is important.

"At this stage the player is here and I think that he is as hungry to win as the rest of the team, that is to say together," added Benitez.

Benitez' first competitive match in the dugout will be the European Super Cup against UEFA Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in Monaco on 27 August.