Inter head coach Antonio Conte said star striker Romelu Lukaku must train more to be in great shape due to his physique.

Lukaku experienced a quiet game as Inter suffered a 2-1 loss to Serie A rivals Juventus in the Derby d'Italia at San Siro on Sunday.

A club-record signing from Manchester United before the transfer window shut, Lukaku returned to the line-up after missing Wednesday's Champions League defeat against Barcelona due to a muscular problem.

Asked about Lukaku, Conte told reporters: "Romelu is definitely a player that must train more, because being a player with a massive body he needs to train, to play, to be in great shape.

"In this beginning of the season he had this back issue, now he's been dealing with this other quadricep issue since the game against Lazio.

"But I think he gave everything, it's inevitable that against Barcelona we didn't have Lukaku and it was important to have him. And we didn't have him. 

"However, Romelu as well was very committed today, he tried to do his best, and now let's hope he can leave these little issues behind him and be at his 100 per cent."

Lukaku has scored three goals for Inter since arriving from United for a fee understood to be €80million (£73m) in August.

Cristiano Ronaldo revelled in Juventus' victory over rivals Inter as the Serie A champions moved back to the top of the Serie A table.

Juventus leapfrogged Inter at the top with a thrilling 2-1 win in the Derby d'Italia at San Siro on Sunday.

Goals from Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain saw Juve move a point clear of Inter, who saw their perfect start to the league season snapped by the Bianconeri.

Ronaldo, who rattled the crossbar and had a goal ruled out for offside, used Instagram to celebrate Juve's fourth consecutive league victory.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner wrote: "Very strong performance by the team today!

"Great feeling to be on the top of the table again! #finoallafine #forzajuve #liveahead."

A fine fourth-minute goal from Dybala put Juve ahead before Lautaro Martinez equalised via the penalty spot 14 minutes later.

However, Higuain had the final say after coming off the bench and scoring the winner with 10 minutes remaining in Milan.

Juve now top the table heading into the international break, with Maurizio Sarri's men returning to action against Bologna on October 19.

Antonio Conte insisted Inter could not be compared to Juventus after a 2-1 loss in the Derby d'Italia on Sunday.

Paulo Dybala's opener was cancelled out by Lautaro Martinez's 18th-minute penalty at San Siro, but Gonzalo Higuain scored a late winner for Juve.

It ended Inter's perfect start to the Serie A season and saw eight-time reigning champions Juve return to the top.

Despite Inter's bright start, Conte said his growing team should not be compared to Juventus.

"We could certainly have done a lot better, even in the two goals we conceded in Barcelona [in the Champions League] we could have done a lot better," he told Sky Sport.

"I repeat that this is a path of growth with young people who are working hard at the level of experience and of all the situations at the moment. We need to work and there are no shortcuts.

"We must not compare ourselves to Juventus, they are of another category from all points of view. We started working to reduce an important gap."

The result means Juve are the only unbeaten team left in Serie A, holding a one-point lead going into the international break.

Asked about the performances of his front two of Martinez and Romelu Lukaku, Conte felt the duo could have done more.

"Surely in the finalisation we could do something better, but the team arrived, it produced," he said.

"The statistics speak of a very balanced challenge, although the two teams are not on paper."

Maurizio Sarri expressed his pleasure with the way Juventus' players have adapted to his style of play but demanded even more following Sunday's 2-1 victory against Serie A rivals Inter.

Juve made it five consecutive wins and claimed their biggest result yet under head coach Sarri after triumphing in the Derby d'Italia to snap Inter's perfect start to the season.

Lautaro Martinez equalised from the penalty spot at San Siro after Paulo Dybala had justified his selection by firing the visitors into a fourth-minute lead, but Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to snatch a vital victory for Juve 10 minutes from time.

However, Sarri played down the significance of the victory early in the season – which saw Juve leapfrog Inter atop the table – and said there is still more to come from his players.

"I feel we can still improve a great deal more. It's a gradual process," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The team has strong individuals and so much strength in depth. It means at the moment we can get results, even if we are not playing at 100 per cent.

"Overtaking at the top means little right now. The most significant element is that we played well, with character and determination against a side that had won every game so far.

"We started well and had the right approach in a fiery atmosphere, so that's a good sign."

Matthijs de Ligt gave away the penalty for Inter's equaliser in the top-of-the-table showdown – the young Juve defender blocking Nicolo Barella's cross with a raised arm.

Sarri accepted De Ligt has struggled at times since arriving from Dutch champions Ajax during the close season, not helped by a long-term injury sustained by Giorgio Chiellini in the opening month of the campaign.

"De Ligt doesn't speak Italian well yet, but he is adapting very quickly to our style of football, our type of defending and has enormous potential, but he is still adapting and that brings difficulties," he said.

"Giorgio Chiellini's injury forced us to rush the introduction of this lad and a more gradual process would probably have helped him."

Match-winner Gonzalo Higuain understands why Maurizio Sarri dropped him for Sunday's crucial Serie A clash with Inter and is glad to have made a telling impact from the bench in Juventus' 2-1 victory.

The 31-year-old was brought on just after the hour at San Siro after losing his place in the starting line-up to Paulo Dybala, who justified his selection for the top-of-the-table showdown by brilliantly opening the scoring in the fourth minute.

Lautaro Martinez levelled up from the penalty spot but Higuain proved to be the hero for Juve as he fired a low finish past Samir Handanovic to snatch three vital points late on.

Asked how he felt about being overlooked for a starting spot, Higuain told Sky Sport Italia: "The coach makes his decisions. Paulo had been doing well recently, so it was understandable. 

"All I can do is be ready to help the team when I come on and fortunately I managed it."

Juventus leapfrogged their opponents into top spot after ending the erstwhile leaders' perfect start under Antonio Conte.

"It was a great game from us," Higuain said. "Inter were the most solid side in the league, they had won six out of six.

"We played with great character and determination. I am glad we took it home.

"This is a great start to the season, but it’s still early and we want to fight on all fronts."

Inter enter the two-week break on the back of successive defeats, Conte's men having let slip a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 against Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Centre-back Milan Skriniar played a full part in both matches and admits there are improvements to be made.

"It has been a mixed week because we played not badly in Barcelona and here tonight too," he said. "We kept the ball and created chances, but were unable to score the goals.

"Juve are a strong side, we all knew that. We have a lot to improve and that's the beauty of it - we are constantly learning and developing.

"I think we need to be more aggressive in our defending around the penalty area, as Barcelona were very dangerous there too with their passes. We need to get closer to the forwards."

The serial winner looking to topple the dynasty he established versus the idealist who must show he can string together results as he does cigarettes. No two men could ever be bigger than Inter versus Juventus, but Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and their sharply contrasting ideologies loomed large over the latest instalment of this historic clash.

Inter's 100 per cent start in Serie A and Juve's comparatively tentative first steps under Sarri – alongside the respective esteem in which each coach was held while at Chelsea – meant the script felt somewhat set as the teams emerged at an expectant San Siro.

Juventus' flying start suggested otherwise, as they followed Sarri's way line by line and to the syllable.

Inter answered in kind – Diego Godin splattering his old Madrid derby foe Cristiano Ronaldo on the turf in a case of Sarrismo meeting machismo – but insufficiently, as Miralem Pjanic's immaculate pass carved enough space for Paulo Dybala to lash a shot through Samir Handanovic's hands.

Ronaldo was alternately playing to the gallery and the gameplan, and the deft footwork that ended with him planting an effort against the crossbar cut an uncomfortable contrast with the hosts' most convincing early foray, when Romelu Lukaku ploughed towards Leonardo Bonucci in a straight line and was dispossessed.

Wojciech Szczesny passing a ball out for a throw-in near his own byline in the 13th minute showed a Bianconeri still coming to terms with Sarri's preferred means of building play. Alex Sandro was booked for trying to delay the restart and Inter seized on momentary uncertainty to apply judicious pressure.

It was typical of a Conte team, clinically sensing their moment. His wing-backs pushed on, Matthijs de Ligt headed a Danilo D'Ambrosio delivery away under pressure, but erred the next time he was called upon by Nicolo Barella at the near post.

Lautaro Martinez made himself enough of a nuisance for De Ligt to handball. Up stepped the Argentina striker to make it 1-1. By the time he got the better of Bonucci to test Szczesny in the 28th minute, Inter were in the ascendancy.

Juve needed to settle back into their work, with some lovely touches from Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Ronaldo played out before an uncompromising and unmoving back five.

Makeshift full-back Juan Cuadrado started their next attack with an audacious pass around Martinez near his own goal-line. Conte's men stood off and Sarri's side were rewarded for trusting their method.

The Bianconeri were back on the front foot and another delicious Pjanic pass met a Dybala lay-off. Ronaldo finished and tore off inimitably, only for VAR to fractionally and cruelly rule against his strike partner.

A touchline skirmish at the interval – "brawl" would be overstating the case – seemed to be instigated by Inter, although De Ligt's crunching challenge on Martinez early in the second half showed Juve were not here to be pushed around while they looked pretty.

Following Pjanic's prompting it was Khedria's turn, in a midfield alliance that sometimes purred like the Jorginho and Allan pairing under Sarri at Napoli, to unpick Inter. Dybala was onside this time, but Handanovic was out sharply.

For all that, the visitors had not managed to shake the Nerazzurri and a live Conte team is a dangerous one. Lukaku was enduring one of his clumsier outings but drove at De Ligt to force an inch-perfect challenge in the area before tumbling under Bonucci's attentions and appealing in vain for a penalty.

De Ligt's mixed showing continued when he turned his back on a drive from substitute Matias Vecino, deflecting it against the post with Szczesny rooted.

Inter were again rumbling their way on top, but Sarri showed there was room for pragmatism within the high-spec masterplan. On came Emre Can for Dybala to add some midfield ballast before his other two replacements – Rodrigo Bentancur and Gonzalo Higuain – combined to send Juventus back to the top of the table.

Like Sarri, Higuain was a hero in Naples and derided at Stamford Bridge. There could be no more fitting matchwinner on a night Sarri faced down the doubters and gave the most compelling demonstration yet that his widescreen vision can be a winning one.

Gonzalo Higuain sent Juventus top of Serie A - and handed Antonio Conte his first league defeat as Inter boss - as the reigning champions secured a 2-1 victory at San Siro.

Higuain started on the bench but the experienced striker once more came up with the goods for Maurizio Sarri, who he has played under at Napoli and Chelsea, guiding home the winner 10 minutes from time.

Paulo Dybala was deployed in the first XI at his compatriot's expense and took just four minutes to break the Derby d'Italia deadlock, but Lautaro Martinez equalised from the penalty spot after a handball by Matthijs de Ligt.

Although Inter rattled the post through a deflected Matias Vecino shot, a sweeping Juve move ended with Rodrigo Bentancur teeing up fellow replacement Higuain to ensure the Bianconeri remain the only unbeaten side in Italy's top tier.

Romelu Lukaku has been passed fit to lead Inter's attack in Sunday's Derby d'Italia against Juventus. 

Lukaku sat out the midweek Champions League trip to Barcelona with a muscular problem but the Belgium striker will look to add to three goals in six Serie A appearances when Antonio Conte's men entertain champions Juve at San Siro. 

Maurizio Sarri has given Federico Bernardeschi the nod to start ahead of Aaron Ramsey, while Paulo Dybala will partner Cristiano Ronaldo up front – Gonzalo Higuain reverting to the bench alongside the former Arsenal midfielder. 

Ramsey's old colleague Alexis Sanchez is suspended, meaning he is unable to test Juan Cuadrado, who once again lines up as an emergency right-back for Juventus in the absence of Mattia De Sciglio and Danilo. 

Kwadwo Asamoah will start at left wing-back for Inter against his old club, while Ronaldo will resume a decade long rivalry forged in Madrid against ex-Atletico centre-back Diego Godin in the Nerazzurri defence.

Juventus are chasing a ninth Serie A title in a row this season but trail Inter at the summit by two points after ex-Bianconeri boss Conte's 100 per cent start to life in Milan.

Real Madrid lead the race to sign Donny van de Beek with Manchester United seemingly out of the running for the Ajax player.

Van de Beek, 22, has developed into one of the most wanted midfielders in Europe after impressing with Ajax.

Madrid and United have been among the clubs linked with a move for the Netherlands international, but the Spanish giants are said to be favourites.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID LEAD VAN DE BEEK RACE WITH MAN UNITED UNWILLING TO MEET AJAX DEMANDS

Real Madrid are in pole position to sign Van de Beek as Manchester United have been unwilling to pay big money for the Ajax man, according to the Mirror.

The report says Ajax asked the Premier League club for £35million (€39.3m) three months ago, but they are now seeking £100million (€112.3m) which has not put off Madrid.

Madrid have been linked to numerous midfielders, including United's Paul Pogba.

ROUND-UP

- Still linked with Real Madrid, Pogba is also reportedly considering signing a new contract at Manchester United. The Mirror says United have denied they are being held to ransom by Pogba amid reports he is demanding £600,000 per week to sign his new deal.

- Lautaro Martinez scored at Camp Nou on Wednesday and the Inter forward's performance has left Barcelona wanting more. The LaLiga giants' attention has returned to Martinez after the display, according to Sport, with the Argentina international having previously been linked with Barca.

- With Real Madrid eyeing midfielders, Wolves' Ruben Neves is being linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu, claims Don Balon, which says €50million (£44.5m) could be enough to get a deal done.

- Arsenal are willing to pay £49.9million (€56m) for PSV striker Donyell Malen, according to Tuttosport. The 20-year-old was previously in the Premier League club's academy and has attracted interest after netting eight goals in as many Eredivisie games this season.

- Victor Valdes' return to Barcelona appears set to be short-lived. Mundo Deportivo reports the club's under-19s coach, appointed in July, is set to lose his job after a string of disagreements.

Inter boss Antonio Conte hit out at "vulgar" Juventus supporters who have attempted to airbrush him from their history ahead of his first return to Allianz Stadium.

Conte won 13 major honours with Juve during his playing days and guided them to three successive Serie A titles after making the switch to coaching.

However, the 50-year-old's decision to take charge of bitter rivals Inter earlier this year damaged his relationship with the club's fanbase.

More than 15,000 Juventus fans have signed a petition for Conte's star on their Walk of Fame to be removed and handed to Claudio Marchisio, who announced his playing retirement on Thursday.

President Andrea Agnelli has already rejected the proposal, but Conte has questioned the values of those who signed the petition and wondered whether he made the right decision to return to Italian football, even threatening to quit the sport.

"I'm disappointed that Agnelli had to intervene because it just gave publicity to a vulgar proposition," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. "It gave room to a move that showed ignorance, lacking values and education. 

"I didn't even want to discuss this, but you in the media are giving a spotlight to these stupid and ignorant people.

"Those are not fans, they are ignorant. We are fortunate to be involved in the best sport in the world and must set the example, pass on positive values and be enthusiastic about playing football. This is sport, not war. Sometimes people forget that.

"It is a sport that should reflect positive human values, not hate and violence. If that's not the case, then I am the first to walk away. Nobody makes me work as a coach."

He added: "It's increasingly difficult because society nowadays highlights hatred and violence. I've honestly struggled since I came back to Italy from England. I see situations and wonder why I am even doing this.

"As long as my passion for this sport surpasses these issues, then I will continue. If my passion drops, I will be the first to say it's time to call it quits. It won't be a big loss for football, but it won't be a loss for me either."

Sunday's clash at San Siro will see Serie A's top two sides meet and is Conte's first return to the club he spent a combined 16 years with as a player and coach.

While Conte was dismissive of his former club's supporters, he was full of praise for Juve's achievements on the field.

"These are the teams who so far have done better than the others, but we are still only in week seven," he said on the eve of the match. "The real values of the clubs will emerge over time, which is why I always say we'll work out our ambitions later on and see what role we can have in this campaign.

"What we can be sure of is that this is the Derby d’Italia, a big game that everyone wants to watch. We must have desire, enthusiasm and the courage to play this type of match.

"We are up against a side that has set the standard in Serie A for many years and also done well in Europe. The credit goes to those who worked there over the years and created a real flagship team. They worked well and set the example for others, that is beyond doubt."

Alexis Sanchez is ruled out of the match through suspension while Romelu Lukaku, who missed the 2-1 Champions League loss to Barcelona in midweek, remains a fitness doubt.

Asked about his squad depth, Conte said: "I hope to be able to count on more players once the break for international duty arrives and we end this initial run of games.

"It is important for a side like Inter in Serie A, the Champions League and Coppa Italia to get everyone involved.

"Lukaku will play if he can give me the right guarantees on his fitness, otherwise someone else will start."

Maurizio Sarri warned Juventus they will face "a complete team" when they play Inter at San Siro on Sunday and called for the Serie A champions to build on their recent strong performances.

Inter are top of Serie A with a 100 per cent record after six games, while Juve sit two points behind them going into the Derby d'Italia.

Antonio Conte is enjoying the kind of start to life in Milan that he experienced at the Bianconeri, where he achieved an unbeaten first league campaign.

Inter suffered a 2-1 defeat at Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, but Sarri said his men would not be favourites to win.

"We are going up against a strong team, in a moment of good health," Sarri told reporters.

"In this game there are no favourites; I only see two strong teams. It's a great feeling to know how to play a game like this.

"Inter are a complete team, very dangerous and good at bouncing back. It will be a beautiful match.

"It will be important to leave San Siro having made a good performance. Looking at the table would be a gross mistake."

Since Juve's goalless draw at Fiorentina in September handed Inter the advantage in Serie A, Sarri's men collected 2-1 victories over Verona and Brescia before beating SPAL 2-0 at home.

"We must confirm the progress we are making," said Sarri. "At this stage we must be very focused on performance.

"Our average ball recovery line has become higher than the first few matches. There was an improvement.

"We must go and impose our football with quality. Then the game will tell us if we need to adapt to other phases too."

Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella claimed he is prepared to die for Antonio Conte as the Serie A leaders focus on a top-of-the-table clash with Juventus.

San Siro will be the setting for a blockbuster Derby d'Italia when the league's two outstanding teams battle for top spot going into the international break.

Though edged out by Barcelona on Wednesday, Inter have been transformed under Conte this season and take a perfect domestic record into Sunday's game.

Barella's fine form since arriving from Cagliari has aided the Nerazzurri's rise, but the Italy international directed all plaudits to his head coach.

"He has a different attitude, a way of talking to you that gives you something new," Barella told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"For him, I would get myself killed. That applies to all his players and that makes the difference.

"Have you seen how Conte's teams run? It is not just because they are well prepared. It is because of the message he puts in your head."

Barella has appeared in all six of Inter's Serie A matches this term and scored a vital late equaliser in the Champions League draw with Slavia Prague in September.

Yet the 22-year-old might not have joined the club had he pursued an offer to link up with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea last season.

Juve boss Sarri was in charge at Stamford Bridge at the time but failed to convince his target to abandon Cagliari as they battled relegation.

"Yes, Chelsea wanted me in January," Barella said.

"But it was not an easy time for Cagliari. I said I would stay and make a decision at the end of the season."

Neymar may not have secured his return to Barcelona, but the Paris Saint-Germain star's future continues to make headlines.

The Brazil forward was keen on making a Barca comeback, two years after his world-record transfer to the French capital.

But as Antoine Griezmann struggles to settle in at Camp Nou, the Frenchman could see himself shipped out to make way for Neymar.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR & GRIEZMANN IN SWAP DEAL

Barcelona are considering the possibility of sending Griezmann to Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar, claims Le10Sport.

Neymar was unable to secure a return to Barca during the transfer window following his €222million exit in 2017.

But as Griezmann – who only arrived from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in the off-season – finds it difficult to settle and develop a relationship with Lionel Messi, the Barca recruit is being talked about as a possible makeweight.

 

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City star James Maddison is Tottenham's number one target to replace soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen, according to the Daily Star. Maddison has also been linked to Premier League rivals Manchester United.

Real Madrid could trigger Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak's €120m release clause as Thibaut Courtois struggles at the Santiago Bernabeu, according to ElDesmarque.

- The front page of Corriere dello Sport says Lazio have signed star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to a new contract until 2024. The deal, worked out in secret for another season, appears to end speculation of a move to the likes of InterUnited, Real Madrid, Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain.

Gennaro Gattuso could make a sensational return to AC Milan, but only in an unlikely scenario. Amid mounting pressure on coach Marco Giampaolo, El Corriere claims Gattuso – who stepped down at the end of 2018-19 – would make his way back to San Siro if directors Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban quit.

- The Express says Chelsea will offer Willian a new contract amid links to LaLiga champions Barcelona. It comes as the Evening Standard reports the Blues will reward Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori with fresh deals.

- Could Carlo Ancelotti leave Napoli at the end of the season? Corriere dello Sport suggests the Italian head coach could depart if results do not improve. Napoli are already six points adrift of Serie A leaders Inter.

- Marca says Manchester United are keeping an eye on Mexico international Jose Juan Macias. The 20-year-old Leon forward scored his first international goal on debut for El Tri on Wednesday.

- Ernesto Valverde's future as Barcelona boss is far from certain and with that in mind, TNT Sport reports that River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo is the club's first choice.

Aaron Ramsey warned Juventus need to be wary of the threat posed by his former Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez when the Italian champions face Inter on Sunday.

Sanchez played alongside Ramsey for three-and-a-half seasons at Arsenal, where the pair enjoyed two FA Cup triumphs together, but they go head-to-head in a top-of-the-table-clash at San Siro.

Since joining Inter on loan from Manchester United in August, Sanchez has made three Serie A appearances and opened his goal-scoring account for the club in a 3-1 victory at Sampdoria.

Ramsey scored his first goal since his move from Arsenal to Juventus a week earlier, netting the Bianconeri's equaliser in a 2-1 win over Verona, and he said his side are braced for a tough challenge against the league leaders this weekend.

"Inter have improved this season," Ramsey told BBC Sport.

"Antonio Conte has got them really organised and they have yet to drop any points. It is going to be difficult.

"They have some great players, including one I know very well from my time at Arsenal. We will have to be aware of him and the other players they have and be really on top of our game to get the result we want."

 

Juventus have only dropped two points in Serie A this season but that leaves them trailing Inter who have won all six of their games under new coach Antonio Conte.

Ramsey indicated that he feels Juve will improve as they adapt to the methods and tactics being used by coach Maurizio Sarri, who took charge in June.

"It has been great so far," said Ramsey when asked about working under the former Chelsea coach.

"There have been new ideas and new information, which we are working hard to try to put into practice. At times it hasn't worked as well as we would have liked, but in other parts it really has.

"We are slowly getting better in terms of what he wants to implement and understanding our roles and responsibilities more.

"This club has been so good and so dominant for so long. We know other teams have improved and are trying to knock us off top spot. But this place is all about winning and that is what we are striving for."

One thing you could never accuse Antonio Conte of is shying away from a challenge.

Conte has a history of taking on projects that, from the outside looking in, appear unfavourable to say the least. 

The fiery Italian delivered Serie A and Premier League titles, in his first campaigns at Juventus and Chelsea respectively, against the odds.

These are the formative days of his Inter tenure, but the initial signs suggest that history could be repeating itself as Conte attempts to end a Juve dynasty he himself set in motion.

So crucial to the aforementioned successes were hugely impressive undefeated streaks that defined his triumphs.

With six wins from six league matches, Inter fans can be forgiven for dreaming that the Conte affect is happening at San Siro.

This weekend, Juventus travel to Milan for what is undoubtedly the biggest domestic test Inter have faced in the fledgling Conte's era. 

Ahead of such a blockbuster fixture, Omnisport has taken a look at Conte's previous new-club juggernauts.

CONTE'S INVINCIBLES

Not even the bravest of gamblers would have predicted the sort of impact Conte had upon his return to Juve as head coach in May 2011. After gaining promotion back to the top flight four years previously, having been demoted for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, the Bianconeri set about competing at the top immediately by finishing third and second in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns.

But when Conte walked back through the doors in Turin, Juventus were at a low ebb, having recorded back-to-back seventh-placed finishes. It was in this context we first witnessed Conte's uncanny ability to turn underachievers into title winners.

Defensive solidity, tactical nous and quick transitions – all Conte trademarks – were to the fore as Juve went unbeaten in Serie A. A tendency to draw looked as though it could derail their aspirations – there were 15 in all from 38 matches and AC Milan actually won more games - but their defence was breached just 20 times in 38 matches. An outstanding end to the season, which saw Juve win 10 of their final 11 games, including a run of eight in a row, emphatically settled the issue and sparked the start to an era of dominance that has returned eight straight titles.

RECORD-BREAKING BLUES

Fast forward to 2016 and it must have felt a little like 'Groundhog Day' for Conte when he took the reins at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were a club in disarray having finished the 2015-16 season in 10th place, just a year on from winning the Premier League under Jose Mourinho.

A team seemingly split and at odds with one another, Mourinho was sacked in December 2015 with the Blues in 16th position. Guus Hiddink steered the club through choppy waters to the end of the campaign, but any notion Conte could make Chelsea title contenders again seemed fanciful at best. Back-to-back losses against Liverpool and Arsenal in September did little to change that thinking.

But a switch to his trademark three-man defence proved a tactical masterstroke as Londoners embarked upon a then-record winning run of 13 matches in the Premier League. Chelsea would suffer three more defeats, but just one in the last nine games – a run of six straight victories crowning a memorable title triumph.

COMPARISONS TO JOSE?

Inter's golden era in the middle-to-late part of the past decade seems like a lifetime ago. Luciano Spalletti secured fourth-place finishes in his two seasons in charge, but the gap to Juventus remained sizeable – 21 points separated the teams last term. It is a challenge tailor-made for Conte and the early signs are positive, with a 100 per cent record in Serie A including a 2-0 derby win over AC Milan.

Juve are undoubtedly on another level to Inter's embattled neighbours, but with games against Sassuolo, Parma, Brescia, Bologna, Hellas Verona, Torino and SPAL to follow there is an opportunity, on paper at least, for another memorable Conte run.

An interesting point of reference is Inter's starts under Jose Mourinho during his two campaigns at San Siro. The Nerazzurri lost just one of their opening 18 Serie A matches – a derby defeat in September – during the 08-09 campaign and cantered to the title by 10 points. It was a similar story 12 months later, where Mourinho oversaw a famous treble campaign, as Inter lost just once in the first 15 matches of the season.

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