Antonio Conte suggested Romelu Lukaku would be well suited to the NFL as he marvelled at the Inter striker's pace and power after a superb display against Genoa.

Lukaku scored the first and last goals in a 3-0 win, with Alexis Sanchez also on target as the Nerazzurri moved second in Serie A.

The Belgium striker was brilliant throughout but saved the moment of the match for stoppage time, accelerating into the Genoa box and blasting in for a stunning solo strike.

Lukaku now has 23 league goals this season, yet Conte believes American football would similarly be a match for his talents.

"Romelu is an atypical footballer because despite being 1.90 metres in height, he is also fast," Conte told a news conference.

"He acts as a focal point but also, from the middle of the pitch, attacks like an American football player.

"I insisted on having him here and he can still grow with his touch and attacking the goal with malice.

"He is only 27 years old and if he wants to continue growing, he has an important future."

Lukaku was delighted with his own contribution but announced his frustration at Inter's failure to seriously challenge Juventus in the closing weeks of the campaign.

The league leaders can clinch the Scudetto against Sampdoria on Sunday, with Inter four points adrift having played a game more.

"On a personal level, I am happy," Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia. "But I say that at the team level, we can do so much more.

"We have a good team, it is not easy to stay second because we want to win. But we have to go as high as possible and I want to help to do it.

"We have lost too many points, but we are young and we want to grow. Now we want to do well in the final matches in the league and then in the Europa League."

Antonio Conte is confident Christian Eriksen will prove a success at Inter in the long term but called on the midfielder to keep working.

Eriksen was a January arrival from Tottenham but has scored just three goals in 19 games for the Nerazzurri, whose Serie A title challenge waned over the same period.

Head coach Conte was encouraged by the Denmark international's display in the midweek draw against Fiorentina, however.

And the former Chelsea coach believes Eriksen can now kick on at San Siro as long as his work ethic does not drop.

"I prefer not to talk about individuals," Conte told Inter TV. "But [Eriksen] made an excellent first half with Fiorentina.

"He has now arrived. He is trying to give his best and we can put him in the best conditions to be able to succeed.

"Behind the strikers, he can do whatever he wants. But he must continue to work steadily and seriously. The results will come."

There is still time for Eriksen to have an impact in this campaign with Inter facing a frantic final stretch.

After visiting Genoa on Saturday, the Nerazzuri face Napoli and Atalanta in their last two Serie A fixtures, before their Europa League campaign resumes against Getafe just three days later.

"First of all, there is a difference [to the other Serie A teams]," Conte said.

"On August 5, we play in the last 16. Our next opponents, Napoli and Atalanta, will instead have more time to prepare for the Champions League, to rest and give their players the right preparation.

"We finish and then immediately play in Europe. It's a period of lots of work, physically and mentally."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte said second position in the table is "just first for losers" after the Nerazzurri dropped behind Atalanta in Serie A.

Conte's stuttering Inter produced a toothless display as they were held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Fiorentina at San Siro on Wednesday.

Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez both hit the woodwork for Inter, who missed the chance to move above Atalanta into second place with three matches remaining.

Inter are one point adrift of high-flying Atalanta and seven behind leaders Juventus as the defending champions close in on a ninth successive Scudetto.

"Second place is meaningless in my eyes, it's just first for losers," Conte told Sky Sport Italia post-game.

"Some settle for that, but not me. I don't want my players to settle for that either."

"It was a good game, we played with the right intensity and passing moves, but were unlucky when hitting the woodwork twice," Conte said.

"I can't complain when the lads put in this desire and we even risked losing it at the end through our sheer desire to win. Fiorentina deserve credit for a very good defensive performance.

"When you drop points, there are always things that have gone wrong. We are trying to develop a killer instinct and I am happy if my players are disappointed at this draw, because that shows my work is bearing fruit.

"Every game is a test to prove that we are growing. I think this team hasn't reaped what it sowed this season, aside from securing a Champions League place with several rounds to spare."

Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez started on the bench against Fiorentina, with Conte preferring Lukaku and the in-form Sanchez up front.

Martinez struggled to make an impact following his introduction with 21 minutes remaining and Conte added: "We are talking about a 22-year-old who didn't really play much last season.

"He has made his mark this term, but still has a journey ahead of him, a growth process that he needs to go through. Lautaro is not the complete package yet.

"He can alternative positive and negative moments, as is natural for someone of his age. The rumours around him are insulting his intelligence and trying to stir up trouble, claiming he is thinking about another club."

Lautaro Martinez vowed to continue "giving 110 per cent" for Inter and repay the confidence shown in him by Antonio Conte as speculation over a move to Barcelona gathers pace.

The Argentina international has been strongly tipped to swap San Siro for Camp Nou at the end of the season, two years after joining the Italian giants from Racing Club.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta has stressed Martinez is not for sale, with the forward's €111million (£98.8m) release clause expiring earlier this month.

And Martinez, who has formed an impressive partnership with Romelu Lukaku this season, has insisted he will give his all for the club as long as he remains an Inter player.

"I am a boy who always fights - for my goals, for those of the team, for the happiness of the fans," he told Inter's matchday programme ahead of Wednesday's clash with Fiorentina.

"I always try to give 110 per cent for this club, for all the people who love it, for the Inter shirt."

Martinez scored 16 goals in all competitions prior to the campaign being halted in March by the coronavirus pandemic but has netted only twice in 10 games since last month's restart.

Conte has repeatedly defended Martinez's form and the 22-year-old is grateful to have the full support of his head coach.

"Conte has given me confidence," he said. "That is a very important and fundamental thing, because he worked on the mentality of each of us.

"I really appreciate it, every day he makes us grow."

Antonio Conte is delighted Inter have achieved their objective of a "stress-free" end to the Serie A season, having sealed a top-four finish. 

The Nerazzurri drew 2-2 with Roma on Sunday, leaving them second in the table with four games remaining, though they are eight points behind leaders Juventus. 

Juve, Inter and Atalanta are all guaranteed to finish in the top four, while Lazio need just two more points to be certain. 

There remains a slight doubt over Champions League places for next season: fourth place would not be enough to qualify if Napoli and Roma, who sit outside the top four, win this season's Champions League and Europa League, as UEFA rules mean no more than five teams from one nation can compete in the competition in one season. 

It means Inter cannot yet be absolutely certain of their place in the tournament in 2020-21, although coach Conte is already feeling a little more at ease knowing fourth is the lowest position they can finish. 

"I think it's important for a side and a club like Inter [to be in the Champions League]," he told reporters ahead of Wednesday's clash with Fiorentina. "Since the start of the season, we have been in the top four in the table.

"I think this is where a club with the prestige of Inter has to be. We have achieved that and with four games to play. 

"I think one of the demands of the club was to try to improve on last season. We wanted to try to be more consistent. 

"The aim was to have a more stress-free finish compared to recent years. I think we have achieved that objective. 

"Without a doubt, Serie A has become a more competitive league: one need only look at the numbers the other teams are putting up. It'll keep getting tougher, and the level of competition has really stepped up. 

"We've got to keep trying to improve, as the club are looking to qualify for the Champions League every year, but we're also looking to be more involved in the title race, so we can eventually get our hands on the Scudetto." 

Fiorentina have endured a far more difficult season and only became mathematically safe from relegation with their 2-0 win over Torino last Sunday. 

"I think it was almost incredible to see Fiorentina in that position in the table," Conte said. "They have a squad full of excellent players. Fiorentina are a very good side. 

"Their coach Beppe Iachini is doing a good job. They will have the pressure off, but when you face clubs like Inter, you find the motivation from within to give your all. 

"They will be stress-free, but we have also achieved our goal of qualifying for the Champions League. I will also make my evaluations as we have played a lot of games lately. I've seen there are players who need to recover and rest up. I'll therefore make changes in light of our situation in the league." 

Antonio Conte is delighted Inter have achieved their objective of a "stress-free" end to the Serie A season, having sealed a top-four finish. 

The Nerazzurri drew 2-2 with Roma on Sunday, leaving them second in the table with four games remaining, though they are eight points behind leaders Juventus. 

Juve, Inter and Atalanta are all guaranteed to finish in the top four, while Lazio need just two more points to be certain. 

There remains a slight doubt over Champions League places for next season: fourth place would not be enough to qualify if Napoli and Roma, who sit outside the top four, win this season's Champions League and Europa League, as UEFA rules mean no more than five teams from one nation can compete in the competition in one season. 

It means Inter cannot yet be absolutely certain of their place in the tournament in 2020-21, although coach Conte is already feeling a little more at ease knowing fourth is the lowest position they can finish. 

"I think it's important for a side and a club like Inter [to be in the Champions League]," he told reporters ahead of Wednesday's clash with Fiorentina. "Since the start of the season, we have been in the top four in the table.

"I think this is where a club with the prestige of Inter has to be. We have achieved that and with four games to play. 

"I think one of the demands of the club was to try to improve on last season. We wanted to try to be more consistent. 

"The aim was to have a more stress-free finish compared to recent years. I think we have achieved that objective. 

"Without a doubt, Serie A has become a more competitive league: one need only look at the numbers the other teams are putting up. It'll keep getting tougher, and the level of competition has really stepped up. 

"We've got to keep trying to improve, as the club are looking to qualify for the Champions League every year, but we're also looking to be more involved in the title race, so we can eventually get our hands on the Scudetto." 

Fiorentina have endured a far more difficult season and only became mathematically safe from relegation with their 2-0 win over Torino last Sunday. 

"I think it was almost incredible to see Fiorentina in that position in the table," Conte said. "They have a squad full of excellent players. Fiorentina are a very good side. 

"Their coach Beppe Iachini is doing a good job. They will have the pressure off, but when you face clubs like Inter, you find the motivation from within to give your all. 

"They will be stress-free, but we have also achieved our goal of qualifying for the Champions League. I will also make my evaluations as we have played a lot of games lately. I've seen there are players who need to recover and rest up. I'll therefore make changes in light of our situation in the league." 

Antonio Conte believes there is a media agenda against Inter because teams with similar ambitions that are performing worse do not get the same criticism.

Inter missed a chance to close the gap to Serie A leaders Juventus to three points on Sunday as they were held to a 2-2 draw away to fifth-placed Roma, whose hopes of finishing in the top four are practically extinguished.

Stefan de Vrij put the Nerazzurri in front at the Stadio Olimpico but they needed a Romelu Lukaku penalty in the 88th minute to salvage a point after Leonardo Spinazzola and Henrikh Mkhitaryan turned the game in Roma's favour.

While Inter missed a big chance to boost their chances of winning a first Scudetto since 2009-10, Conte highlighted they sit second and are still in a better position than a number of teams that started the season with similar ambitions.

"I talk about numbers. We are in Champions League places with four games to go, with 14 points more than Roma and 16 more than Napoli and Milan," said Conte.

"But I read and hear that everybody criticises Inter while other teams are not in the top four. I think there is an agenda against Inter and everything is underlined as negative.

"But we must be honest and see what are we doing and what others are doing. With four games ahead we still speak about winning the title, which has not happened here for 10 years.

"There is more blind people do not want to see... I have nothing more to say. You [the media] always win, the last word is yours."

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said the Nerazzurri have not made an approach for Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo and "probably won't" in the future, while he also discussed the possibility of signing Alexis Sanchez permanently from Manchester United.

Zaniolo has flourished in the Italian capital since joining Roma from Serie A rivals Inter in 2018, establishing himself as a key player for the Giallorossi and Italy.

But the attacking midfielder, who returned from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) earlier this month, has been linked with an Inter reunion, while Italian champions Juventus are also reportedly interested.

Marotta, however, played down reports Zaniolo could make a San Siro comeback prior to Sunday's 2-2 draw between Inter and Roma.

"He's one of most interesting players in the league, but we haven't approached Roma officials and probably won't," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia of Zaniolo, who did not feature for Roma at home to Inter.

Inter CEO Marotta was also asked about another Roma player – captain Edin Dzeko.

Antonio Conte was desperate to sign Dzeko at the start of the season, but a transfer did not materialise as the veteran Bosnian striker re-signed until 2022.

"It's a bit inappropriate to talk about the transfer market now," Marotta said. "There are competitions that still have to end and the upcoming window will be an unusual one."

Sanchez continued his fine form for Inter on Sunday, supplying another assist amid speculation over his long-term future.

On loan from Premier League giants United, Sanchez has tallied seven assists and scored twice since Serie A returned last month after the league was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Only Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (nine) has provided more assists than Sanchez since the return of the top European leagues.

"As for Sanchez, we'll make targeted assessments on him and see what can be done. I think mixing experienced players with younger ones is the right thing to do," Marotta added.

"We're looking for both kinds of players. Investing in talent is a job for the future. Experienced players, on the other hand, can make an impact immediately. We have to raise the bar and get closer to victory."

Antonio Conte hit out at Serie A chiefs for their scheduling of Inter's fixtures and accused the match officials of making a big error in Sunday's 2-2 draw with Roma.

The visitors salvaged a late point at Stadio Olimpico through Romelu Lukaku's penalty after Leonardo Spinazzola and Henrikh Mkhitaryan cancelled out Stefan de Vrij's opener.

It was Inter's fourth match in 11 days, each of those games in the late kick-off slot, whereas title rivals Juventus have had a four-day rest ahead of Monday's clash with Lazio.

And Conte feels that playing late in the day has been a big disadvantage for his side given the quick turnaround in fixtures.

"I want people to look at the fixture list for Inter," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Our calendar is insane and made to cause us problems. 

"We are always playing late at night, the teams we face always have an extra day of rest compared to us. These are facts.

"It's an anomaly, so if you are honest, look at what happened in the last round. Evidently Inter weren't present when the fixture list was drawn up, because our calendar is crazy.

"Some teams get five days of rest. We play late at night in an away fixture and basically end up getting home at 4am.

"Everyone has to make compromises, but it's always Inter that ends up getting the short straw. Always. It's funny, that. If someone has to get a slap, it's always Inter."

Inter were a goal ahead before Spinazzola equalised in first-half stoppage time, the strike allowed to stand despite Aleksandar Kolarov catching Lautaro Martinez in the build-up.

Conte was unhappy with the decision but held back from being overly critical of the officials, who awarded Inter a late penalty for Spinazzola's clumsy challenge on Victor Moses.

"It's not a dubious situation. It was a very clear situation," he said. "The Roma player does not get the ball, he gets Lautaro's ankle. 

"I have the utmost respect for referees – they too are going through a strange and anomalous situation, so I don't think they deserve that kind of criticism. 

"They too can make mistakes, and the referee tonight made a mistake, it happens.

"Of course, if you go into the break at 1-1 with the knowledge it was an unjust situation, it is going to make you angry."

The draw does little for Inter's Scudetto hopes, leaving them five points behind Juventus ahead of the reigning champions' game in hand against fourth-placed Lazio.

They are now assured of a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League, however, and Conte called for Inter's season to be put into perspective.

"We are talking about a team that in my view is doing some very good things," he said. 

"Aside from second place, if you look at the goals scored and conceded, we are in the Champions League with four rounds to spare and 14 points clear of fifth place.

"Let's not forget Inter started with the same objectives for the season as Roma and Napoli. 

"Serie A has become very competitive indeed and everyone is set up to have great campaigns. Only four go into the Champions League.

"If people say Inter are below par, then what do you say about the other teams who didn't finish in the top four?"

Antonio Conte pointed to injuries hampering Inter during his first season in charge as they aim to close the gap on leaders Juventus at the top of Serie A.

The Nerazzurri have recorded back-to-back victories to move up to second in the table, six points behind the reigning champions ahead of Sunday's trip to Roma.

Conte's side can cut the deficit in half to keep the pressure on Juve, who play Lazio on Monday, though Inter's Scudetto bid during a truncated campaign has been hurt by key players missing extended periods of time.

Alexis Sanchez has been plagued by injuries since arriving on loan from Manchester United, while Stefano Sensi has figured sparingly in 2020 due to a number of issues, the latest being a pulled thigh muscle.

However, despite having to cope with depleted attacking resources at times, Conte has been pleased how others have seized their opportunities.

"This is something we've unfortunately had to deal since the start of the season," the Inter boss told the club's website when asked about injuries. 

"After a bad injury to Sanchez's ankle, we were without Alexis for four to five months, while it's also been a tough year in midfield due to recurring injuries.

"Just thinking about Sensi, he's a player who we've had for so little time, or the bad injuries to (Roberto) Gagliardini and (Nicolo) Barella, (Matias) Vecino too, who has had constant trouble with his knee.

"These are two areas of the pitch that have caused both me and us problems, but looking at the glass as half full, those who have played have shown and are continuing to show big responses.

"I'm talking about players like Gagliardini, (Marcelo) Brozovic and Borja Valero, then we've got (Christian) Eriksen, whose settling in. I think that there are definitely positives to be taken."

Romelu Lukaku was not involved in the 4-0 win over SPAL on Thursday but could return to face Roma, who are in need of points in the battle to finish fifth.

Conte is concerned that those who featured last time out have had little time to recover before the clash at the Stadio Olimpico, though the SPAL performance demonstrated the improvements made by the squad.

"We're talking about a well-equipped side, a squad full of excellent players and a great coach," the former Chelsea boss said. 

"It's a very difficult game that arrives just two days after our away game with SPAL, so we've had to deal with the travelling and one day less to recover.

"But from a positive point of view, we're full of enthusiasm after seeing that the work we're doing is starting to be recognised."

Antonio Conte is "pleased" for Christian Eriksen but admits he wants to see more from the playmaker once he fully settles into life at Inter.

The Denmark international returned to Inter's starting line-up for Thursday's 4-0 win over bottom side SPAL after being brought on as a late substitute in their last two matches.

Eriksen has struggled for form since the three-month hiatus and there have been suggestions he could be sold at the end of the season, six months after joining from Tottenham.

But while Conte believes the 28-year-old can still develop his game in some areas, he is happy with the improvements already made since arriving in January. 

"Christian is working, he's trying to get into the mechanisms of the team and of a league that is much more tactical than in England," Conte told DAZN.

"He's a player with quality who is trying to improve, to be more aggressive when in pressing, which is what we are asking of him.

"I'm pleased for him, but he has to keep working, just like the others. He is quite a shy lad who is settling into a new reality, a new type of football. 

"He's a really good guy and didn't arrive with any arrogance. At the same time, he must understand shyness is fine off the field.

"But he has to adapt and understand certain situations. He creates no problems, he wants to achieve important things with Inter."

Alexis Sanchez stole the show against SPAL by setting up Antonio Candreva for the opener, playing a part in Cristiano Biraghi's strike and then heading in the third before Roberto Gagliardini rounded things off.

The Chile forward is set to return to Manchester United when his loan spell expires at the end of the elongated campaign but Conte is delighted with the impact he has made.

"Alexis is a player we wanted strongly – he has important characteristics," Conte said. "He came from two bad seasons at United but I knew what kind of player we were taking.

"It's a loan deal and United are paying a good part of his salary. Now he is starting to feel good. 

"For now he is a player who has rediscovered his form and wants to play. He is hungry and I am happy for him because he has suffered. He is certainly an extra weapon for us."

Back-to-back wins for Inter in the space of four days, combined with three games without a win for Juventus, lifts them up to second and within six points of top spot.

Conte is glad that his side are starting to show some consistency but acknowledges the title is still Juve's to lose as they boast a six-point lead with five games to go. 

"The important thing for us was to send a signal of our consistency, our belief, hunger and determination, because these games on paper might seem easy, but we know there's nothing easy," Conte said at his post-match news conference.

"SPAL were tough opponents and kept going. We wanted to secure a Champions League spot, position ourselves in second place again and get closer to those ahead of us, even if they are still a long way away.

"I think the signals sent by the team are ones of mental strength, even if we had a few hiccups along the way and paid a heavy price for them.

"The championship is certainly in the hands of Juventus. We must try to continue to do well and improve, to think about only us. 

"Now we have a difficult game against Roma and we have little time to recover. If we want to put pressure on those in front we will have to win."

Inter must show the right attitude and determination when they take on Serie A's bottom club SPAL on Thursday, says Antonio Conte.

A 2-1 home defeat to Bologna on July 5 left Inter 11 points adrift of league leaders Juventus, but the gap was reduced to eight points with six games remaining following their 3-1 win over Torino on Monday.

Atalanta moved above the Nerazzurri and into second with a 6-2 thrashing of local rivals Brescia on Tuesday.

SPAL sit 11 points adrift of safety and look destined for relegation to Serie B, but Conte believes that makes them dangerous opponents.

"We need to go into the match with the same desire and enthusiasm that we're currently displaying, trying to give our all and pick up three very important points in the process," Conte told a pre-match news conference on Wednesday.

"We need to be attentive in our approach and show the right attitude and determination from kick-off. We're facing a side that is adrift in the table, but let's not forget that playing against big sides like Inter is a big motivational factor.

"Therefore, we need to pay attention. Our attitude, determination, the enthusiasm that we have and the desire to continue to do well and try to achieve victory are all things that will count for a lot."

Inter have only lost four games in Serie A this season – as many as Juve after 32 matches – and have seen 18 different players score.

"These numbers are testament to the excellent things that this team is doing: they need to provide us with the motivation to continue on the path we're on as we look to do even better," said Conte.

"We're doing some important work, and I'd like to thank my staff for this: they support and accompany me, prepare videos of matches that we've just been involved in, analyse our future opponents, and also help in training and all the rest.

"Close collaboration and high-quality staff are required, which luckily I have."

Conte confirmed Victor Moses is available again after missing Inter's past three games with a thigh injury, though the meeting with SPAL comes too soon for Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku.

He said: "Nicolo Barella is on the road to recovery. He's started to work with the ball and we hope to have him at our disposal for the next game.

"[Matias] Vecino is still struggling with a knee problem. [Stefano] Sensi is continuing to receive treatment. Meanwhile, Lukaku is trying to overcome a contracture, we hope to have him back as soon as possible."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte said he will not "hesitate" to leave if the club are unhappy, though the Italian remains committed to the Nerazzurri project amid question marks over his future.

Conte joined Inter at the start of the season but there have been reports the former Chelsea and Juventus boss could leave at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

Doubts have emerged amid Inter's struggles and Conte's frustrations, with the team failing to fire since the Serie A returned last month after the season was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Inter leapfrogged Lazio into second position in the table, eight points behind leaders Juve with six games remaining, following Monday's rallying 3-1 win at home to Torino and Conte was asked about his future.

"I was called to Inter for a three-year project, to bring them back where they deserve to be," Conte told Sky Sport Italia. "Inevitably, that takes time. I came here with so much enthusiasm. I have faith.

"I started a three-year project and [my contract] lasts three years. After that, if they want to extend my contract... I'm happy, I know there's a long way to go, but I don't want to overstay my welcome.

"If everyone's happy with the job I'm doing, and I think that's the case right now, from what I've been told, then I don't see why we shouldn't go on.

"If they're not happy with the job I'm doing then I won't hesitate to step aside."

Inter have seen their Scudetto bid derailed following a home defeat to Bologna and a draw with Hellas Verona, and they fell behind in the 17th minute on Monday.

Andrea Belotti was gifted the opener after Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic fumbled a corner at the Torino star's feet at San Siro – heaping further misery on Conte and his stuttering side. 

But Inter – without Romelu Lukaku – rallied in the second half thanks to goals from Ashley Young, Diego Godin and Lautaro Martinez, who ended his five-game scoreless drought. 

Conte added: "I honestly think we started the game very well. Then there was this corner kick. It was a period where there was an incident and we conceded a goal.

"I find it sensational that Samir messed up: he hardly makes mistakes. Overall, I think it was a game we dominated.

"The goal could've made us nervous and caused us problems, but we did well to score our goals.

"We're much less predictable than we were before as now we attack with more men. The result must crown the effort we put in and when it doesn't, it disappoints me.

"We've been punished excessively by certain incidents, but we're on the right track: playing attacking football and overloading our opponents' box."

Inter boss Antonio Conte refused to blame his players after they threw away a lead to draw 2-2 at Hellas Verona on Thursday.

The Nerazzurri had been leading going into the final five minutes at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi but Miguel Veloso showed wonderful composure to seal a point for the hosts.

Inter had forged ahead early in the second half thanks to an Antonio Candreva strike and own goal from Federico Dimarco after Darko Lazovic had given Verona a second-minute lead.

It is the second time in five days Inter have thrown away a lead following their 2-1 defeat to Bologna on Sunday but Conte would not be drawn into criticising his side.

"In terms of effort, hunger and determination, I have no complaints," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Let's not forget, we played against a Verona side that keeps a high tempo and makes that its greatest strength. I think Inter replied blow for blow.

"There is the usual regret that we conceded a goal five minutes from time on a throw-in. These are situations that are disappointing because you drop points along the way and they add up. We deserved to win the game.

"Verona barely had a shot on goal in the second half. We conceded through a throw-in and ball across to a player on the edge of the box.

"I don't want to say too much as people love to claim I always criticise, criticise, criticise. I don't; I just want to help everyone improve and move forward."

Inter have now dropped a whopping 20 points from leading positions in Serie A this season, with Conte well aware it is an issue that needs resolving swiftly.

"We're doing important work and I focus on that," he added. "I think you can see the results of the work we're doing. The fact we lost 20 points should push us to reflect and continue improving.

"We're well aware that we dropped points in a stupid fashion throughout the season, otherwise we'd be talking about a very different campaign."

Antonio Conte called on his Inter players to channel their "bitterness and disappointment" in a positive way when they face Hellas Verona on Thursday.

The Nerazzurri suffered their first Serie A loss since the resumption of the season on Sunday when they conceded two late goals to be defeated 2-1 by Bologna.

Conte's side cannot afford many such slip-ups given leaders Juventus have an 11-point advantage over third-placed Inter, though Milan's win over the reigning champions on Monday has given the chasing pack hope.

Inter can cut that gap to eight points with seven to play and Conte wants to see a response.

"We're putting the game against Bologna behind us and preparing for the game against Verona," he told Inter TV.

"In times like these, the fact that our next game is so soon is actually a positive, because we'll certainly still be feeling a bit of bitterness and disappointment, but at the same time you have to focus on your next match, which in this case is a big fixture against a very strong side in Hellas Verona."

Despite the result against Bologna - in which both sides had men sent off in the second half - Conte has been encouraged by the statistics from his team's past five league games.

Since the Serie A campaign restarted in June following the coronavirus-enforced break, Inter have scored the joint-most goals in the league, with 14, and have the highest ball-possession figures with 61.8 per cent.

"These figures are certainly promising, and they're testament to the fact that every time we step out onto the pitch, we look to set the tempo and dominate the game," Conte added.

"What's more, the fact that Inter are one of the top sides in the league when it comes to creating chances in the opposition area shows that we've put in some excellent performances.

"But, at the end of the day, we've got to make sure that these performances are translated into good results."

Inter will welcome Milan Skriniar back from a ban on Thursday but Danilo D'Ambrosio and Alessandro Bastoni will miss out through suspension.

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