MILAN (Reuters) - Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti ducked questions on whether his team was better off without sidelined forward Mauro Icardi following their Europa League win over Rapid Vienna.
Icardi has not played since being stripped of the captaincy last week amid uncertainty caused by protracted negotiations over a contract extension.
Inter have won all three games in the absence of the Argentine, who has complained of pains in his knee.
"We are improving and making fewer silly mistakes than before, but it is not fair to connect this to something else which has happened during his period," Spalletti told reporters after the 4-0 win.
"We should look at this from the correct angle which is that the team is working hard and making fewer mistakes."
Inter completed a 5-0 aggregate win in the round of 32 tie as they continued their recovery from a poor spell around the winter break.
Icardi, Inter's leading Serie A scorer in the last four seasons, was photographed watching from the stands with his wife and agent Wanda Nara but Spalletti said he wanted to concentrate on those who were on the field.
"From now on, we will talk about who is playing," he said. "We need to give encouragement to those who are playing, running and getting kicked."
"The team is heading in the right direction but we need to keep the required standard in mind," he added.
"At times, we play below our potential and struggle to show our individual and collective abilities out on the pitch."
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)