'Caged tiger' Sanchez is in his best condition – Conte hails Inter match-winner

By Sports Desk March 04, 2021

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes Alexis Sanchez is in his best condition since he joined the club, while the Chilean has compared himself to a "caged tiger".

Sanchez followed up his goal in the Nerazzurri's weekend win over Genoa with a vital brace in the 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday. 

The result moved Inter six points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit after Stefano Pioli's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. 

Sanchez spent last season on loan at Inter from Manchester United, but only managed four goals across all competitions. 

He is up to five this term despite largely playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

While acknowledging that those two are still his preferred partnership in attack, Conte stressed the importance of having a firing Sanchez waiting in the wings. 

"He is in the best condition we've ever seen him at the moment," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia.

"He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too. 

"It's important for us to create these situations with competition for places.

"Don't forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he's now in Serie B at Venezia."

Sanchez agreed with Conte's assessment of his condition and said he is eager for more playing time. 

"I am a player with a lot of experience, the coach trusts me and I am happy," he said. 

"I always want to play and be at 100 per cent. I feel like a caged lion and the more I play, the better I feel. That's always been the case since I started playing football.

"I love this sport. I love playing, and the more I play, the better I feel. We've all made sacrifices, worked hard, watched videos, studied, trained and every day learned something new."

The win over Parma means Inter have now claimed 59 points or more from the opening 25 games of a Serie A season for the fourth time in the three-points-for-a-win era. 

They won the title in the previous three (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), yet Conte is refusing to get carried away and warned his side against losing their focus.

"We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone," he added. "That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.

"We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we'll be very happy and proud, because it'll mean we've made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time."

Inter are next in action on Monday when they host Atalanta.

Related items

  • Ricketts praises Shaw as City striker adds WSL Golden Boot award to accolades Ricketts praises Shaw as City striker adds WSL Golden Boot award to accolades

    As expected, Jamaica and Manchester City forward Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw won the Barclays Women's Super League (WSL) Golden Boot award by a distance, becoming the first player from the club to win the prize in their 10 years in the top flight.

    The award marks a clean sweep of individual prizes for Shaw, who also won the Football Writers' Association (FWA) Player of the Year award and the Women's Super League Player of the Year award in recent weeks.

    Shaw’s tally of 21 goals ensured that she finished eight goals clear of Chelsea's Lauren James and Brighton’s Elisabeth Terland, who both ended with 13 goals apiece.

    The 27-year-old Shaw averaged a goal every 66 minutes in the league this season, accounting for over a third of the City's total league goals. During her impressive exploits, the Jamaican also became the Club’s record goalscorer in the process, when she found the net in a 3-1 Manchester derby win at the Etihad Stadium.

    The forward's campaign was cut short in April after suffering a broken leg in City's 5-0 home win against West Ham.

    Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts again hailed the towering striker on her remarkable achievements throughout the 2023/24 campaign.

    "It's pleasing to see Khadija receiving multiple accolades for her achievements," Ricketts said.

    "She obviously worked hard to improve her craft and the results have been overwhelming. The management and staff of the federation congratulate her heartily and wish her a speedy recovery from her injury,” he added.

    Meanwhile, Shaw's teammate Khiara Keating became the youngest player to win the Women's Super League Golden Glove award.

    Keating, 19, kept nine clean sheets in 22 league games for City as they finished second behind Chelsea in the title race. Manchester United's Mary Earps kept seven clean sheets in 22 games, while Chelsea's Hannah Hampton has managed six in 10 matches.

    The young shot stopper played just three league games for City last season, spending most of the second half of the campaign on loan at then-Championship side Coventry United.

  • Emery admits 'I have my dreams' with Villa after sealing Champions League qualification Emery admits 'I have my dreams' with Villa after sealing Champions League qualification

    Unai Emery has his sights set on winning the Premier League or Champions League with Aston Villa after securing a top-four finish earlier this week.

    Fifth-place Tottenham's defeat to title-chasing Manchester City on Tuesday meant Villa will play in Europe's premier club competition next season for the first time in 41 years.

    Emery's side conclude a memorable season – in which they also reached the Europa Conference League semi-finals – away at Crystal Palace on the final day.

    And the Spaniard is already focused on achieving bigger and better things with Villa. 

    "It really was amazing when the [Tottenham-Manchester City] match finished," he smiled. "At the beginning of the season, it was really a dream. Of course, we worked hard to try to be there.

    "I want to get better, and I have my dreams, and I believe in my dreams. Of course, my objectives are to win the Premier League or the Champions League. We are not contenders, but it is our dream to achieve something like that."

    Meanwhile, Palace have enjoyed a strong finish to the season, winning five of their last six games.

    The Eagles could seal a top-half finish with a victory – and other results going their way – and Oliver Glasner has urged his players to use that as inspiration at Selhurst Park.

    "I'm pleased with the performances we've had," he said. "We want to win. We always focus on what we can influence. If we don't do our job, we don't win, we can't be 10th. It's good motivation at home to say thank you to the fans."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Crystal Palace – Jean-Philippe Mateta

    Mateta has scored in each of his last six home Premier League appearances for Palace, netting eight goals along the way. 

    He is now aiming to become only the second Frenchman after Thierry Henry to find the net in seven successive Premier League appearances on home soil.

    Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins

    Watkins has recorded the most assists in the Premier League this season with 13.

    Only Ashley Young has ever provided more during a single Premier League campaign for Villa (14 in 2007-08).

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Palace are unbeaten on each of the previous 11 occasions they have finished a top-flight season with a home match (winning seven, drawing four).

    By contrast, Villa have only won once in the 25 occasions they have finished a league campaign with an away game (drawn seven, lost 17).

    That sole victory came against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2001-02.

    On a brighter note, Villa are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League away games in London, winning five of their six this term. 

    With 16 such points this season, a win or draw here would set a new Premier League record for the most achieved during a single campaign.

    Although, you must go back to their title-winning season of 1980-81 for the last time they completed a league double over Palace.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Crystal Palace: 31.8%
    Aston Villa: 39.5%
    Draw: 28.7

  • Leverkusen have no time to soak in 'Neverlusen' season - Alonso Leverkusen have no time to soak in 'Neverlusen' season - Alonso

    Xabi Alonso says it will take time for Bayer Leverkusen's undefeated run to their maiden Bundesliga to sink in.

    Long derided as 'Neverkusen' for their failure to win a major title for decades, Leverkusen became the first-ever team in the Bundesliga to complete a full season without a loss following a 2-1 victory over Augsburg in the season finale on Saturday.

    In fact, across the top five European leagues, only Arsenal (2003-04) and Juventus (2011-12) have achieved an invincible season since the start of the millenium. 

    The club hailed the achievement by giving themselves a new nickname on their social media channel - 'Bayer 04 Neverlusen'.

    "It is an exceptional season, not only in Germany but in Europe," Alonso said in a press conference.

    "We deserve now to be part of that history of European football. In 20 years, we will look back, and we will say 'we did that'.

    "It is an important day for the club. We have to be proud of the way we played. 90 points and undefeated. We need a bit more time to value this title. The first Bundesliga title but a big Bundesliga title victory."

    Alonso's team also stretched their European record unbeaten run across all competitions this season to 51 matches as they look to complete the treble next week. 

    Leverkusen face Atalanta on Wednesday in the Europa League final before taking on Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25.

    "I believe it [the unbeaten title win], but I need more time. But we have no time because we have the next big goal [on Wednesday]. It is unique opportunity," Alonso added.

    "We will remember this day. It is a special day to have the league trophy here and having done it undefeated. This team has now been engraved in Bundesliga history."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.