Antonio Conte has challenged his Inter side to play with "personality" in Tuesday's mouth-watering Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Inter ran out 2-0 winners over the Bundesliga outfit a fortnight ago to leave both sides on four points in Group F, three points behind leaders Barcelona.

Conte believes Barca are assured of a place in the knockout stages and knows his side will have to stand strong in the face of a red-hot atmosphere at Signal Iduna Park to ensure they join them in the last 16.

"It's an important match as we are on equal points," he told a media conference. "Barcelona have already guaranteed their place. 

"We were good when we beat [Dortmund] at home and we know the difficulties we will face tomorrow. We face a strong and proven club, who have been in the Champions League for many years. 

"The environment will be hot and electric; we know what motivation Dortmund fans can give to their players. It will be important for us to play with personality.

"We want to play offensively everywhere. If it is a defensive game, it will be only because Dortmund have forced us to do it. Our mentality is to always hurt the opponent. We always want to attack."

Meanwhile, Conte had strong words for the Hellas Verona supporters who racially abused Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A clash, describing them as "ignorant" and "morons".

Former Inter star Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before he scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

"I was not in the stadium, but I believe it is necessary to be very strict and inflexible," Conte said. "We must punish these ignorant people. The morons must be punished. It is absurd that, in 2019, we are still faced with things like this."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes his side's fighting spirit will help sustain their efforts to challenge Juventus for the Serie A title.

Conte's side came back from a goal down at Bologna on Saturday to clinch a 2-1 victory which kept the pressure up on defending champions Juventus.

Romelu Lukaku secured the points for Inter with an injury-time penalty after he had earlier cancelled out Roberto Soriano's opening goal for the hosts, moving Conte's men top and two points clear of Juve, who have played a match less.

Conte told Sky Sport Italia: "Our objective was to become credible, to emerge with a shirt soaked through with sweat. We are achieving that.

"I knew that this job was a very, very difficult challenge for me in many ways.

"I like to seek out something tough, as my history speaks for itself, I always arrived in critical moments for top clubs and with hard work took them back to where they deserved.

"I did that at Juventus and at Chelsea, I hope with hard work to do the same at Inter.

"What makes me happy is working with a group of great lads who give everything and today they didn't let their heads drop or negative thinking to set in.

"The lads showed great inner strength to fight back and turn it around. We can be proud of what we're achieving this season."

Conte has urged his players to simply ignore Juventus' results and instead only concentrate efforts on what they can influence.

"We need to focus on ourselves and not think about what anyone else is doing," Conte said.

"We must work on improving ourselves and sending these signs to above all our fans.

"It's an excellent sign, because it can be too easy to judge when things are going well.

"A team that reacts to difficulties and turns them into a victory is a great sign."

Conte was also impressed with the manner in which Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez linked up.

Belgium international Lukaku took his tally to nine goals in 11 Serie A matches for Inter with that brace.

Although Martinez did not get on the scoresheet, his rapport with Lukaku on the pitch caught the eye.

"Potentially they can be the Inter partnership for another 10 years," added Conte.

"I had studied Lautaro a little before coming here. He is a centre-forward, but at the same time also a second striker, so he's atypical.

"Lukaku is an unusual striker too, because he has this physicality of a centre-forward, but if you give him space to run into, he is devastatingly fast.

"Above all I'm happy with the work they are both doing off the ball."

Antonio Conte is not concerned about speculation linking Lautaro Martinez with Barcelona and has challenged the Inter forward to take his game to the next level.

Reports in Spain have suggested Barcelona are eyeing the Argentina international as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, while Manchester United are also rumoured to be interested in the player.

Martinez scored for Inter in their 2-1 Champions League loss at Camp Nou last month and already has seven goals in all competitions this term, striking up an excellent partnership with Romelu Lukaku.

Yet despite the speculation, Conte has told the 22-year-old to continue working hard if he wants to maximise his obvious potential.

"We look to the present to build the future," Conte said at his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Bologna.

"He is working well and has made good progress. He can still make further progress because he is still only 22 years old.

"He has to continue to work hard. Much of the transfer talk comes from that and it cannot be seen as a problem at this moment - there are bigger concerns.

"He must try to be more selfish when he has a chance to score. It's all part of his growth process. I want to improve all of my players.

While Martinez has thrived under the coaching of Conte, team-mate Valentino Lazaro has struggled since arriving from Hertha Berlin in a €22million deal during the close season.

Amid talk that Inter are looking to bring in a new right-sided player, Conte has vowed to give the Austria international a chance to justify his price tag.

"He has been used seven times this season and for his national side he is very promising," he said. "At Hertha there is less pressure than he has found in Milan. 

"He is working hard and we will give him the opportunities to start games. It was a big investment for him."

Inter have won eight of their opening 10 league matches - equalling their best Serie A return at this stage - but are still one point behind champions Juventus.

The Bianconeri's period of dominance started with Conte at the helm, but the Italian coach has played down comparisons between his first seasons at Juve and his early work at Inter.

"There is an important difference - we did not have cup competitions in the first year at Juve," he said. "We could dedicate ourselves, heart and soul, to the league. We played in the league, and then the league again.

"It is not the same thing here - the expenditure is very high. One thing that I am sure of, here we also have to play a thousand miles per hour. If we take our foot off the accelerator, it will be difficult to win games.

"We must sweat for the victory. That is beyond doubt and must be clear to all the players."

Antonio Conte fears Inter's hectic schedule could eventually catch up with his team despite the Nerazzurri moving top of Serie A on Tuesday.

Inter leapfrogged Juventus by two points atop the summit, albeit having played a game more, after beating Brescia 2-1 thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku at Stadio Rigamonti. 

However, head coach Conte – who is without the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Stefano Sensi due to injury – admitted his concerns about Inter running out of steam amid a busy domestic and European schedule. 

"It becomes difficult to talk about the game, because the same players are out there constantly. They struggled to an extraordinary degree," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was our fourth game in nine days, with the same players. Any situation or result is acceptable at that point. All we can do is thank them for the spirit they showed to hang in until the end.

"Now we're only halfway there, as we have another game with Bologna, then Borussia Dortmund and we'll have seven games in 20 days before we get to rest. It's an anomaly and I haven't seen any other side with a fixture list like that, so it seemed very strange to me.

"Some games you need to win just by suffering. They must understand that for many reasons, as for example the hosts are pushing to turn the result around, you have to soak up the pressure, hang in there and I challenge anyone to play four games in nine days while getting a victory at Brescia."

Conte added: "We're top of the table, but pushing the engine to the max and it can't go much longer."

Martinez made it seven club goals for the campaign but conceded it was a tough night for Inter, who were made to sweat following Milan Skriniar's late own goal.

"It was difficult, a very intense game against a team that moves very well," Martinez told Sky Sport Italia.

"We knew that it was going to be tough to take the three points here, but we tried to impose our football, knowing full well Brescia would clam up and defend.

"Some fatigue is natural, as we play with a great deal of intensity every three days, so that needs a lot of physical effort. We are nonetheless happy with the work we're doing for our coach.

"As always, we take it one game at a time, know we are doing very well and it's important to once again return from an away fixture with three points."

Antonio Conte is reluctant to compare Marcelo Brozovic to Italy great Andrea Pirlo but believes the Inter midfielder has world-class potential.

Brozovic has been an ever-present during Conte's Inter reign to date, scoring twice in eight Serie A appearances.

The Croatia international's playmaking skills were again to the fore during impressive wins over Sassuolo and Borussia Dortmund over the past week.

It meant Conte fielding a question at his pre-match news conference for Saturday's meeting with Parma that mentioned the 26-year-old alongside the magisterial Pirlo – a comparison the former Juventus head coach was keen to defuse.

"Brozo can get better. He can get better with his passes to the attack, he can set up more goals," he said.

"We are working on this. I think he needs to also work on his defensive game. A holding midfielder must be good in defence too. He can become world class.

"As for Pirlo, I do not want to make a comparison with Brozo. Pirlo is someone who is a genius. He made history in this game.

"Brozo has different traits, he is training well and I am pleased with him. I want him to become a world-class player."

Back-to-back wins on the resumption from the latest international break have seen Inter bounce back impressively from the reverses to Barcelona and Juve at the start of this month.

That absorbing loss to Maurizio Sarri's reigning champions at San Siro remains the difference in the Serie A table, with Inter a point shy of Juventus thanks to seven wins from eight matches.

"We have started on our journey, we need to focus on ourselves," Conte replied when asked whether Inter's unexpectedly close proximity to Juventus was bringing extra pressure.

"Inter cannot worry about the others, we need to look ahead.

"This is a new cycle for us. It is not easy. We are close to the league leaders. That is very satisfying, but let's stay focused.

"Each game is a test of our ambitions. We need to give our all. That is the only way to get three points."

Conte added: "We have started a new journey together. These things take time and patience.

"We are on the right track, let us continue this way. Then we will see where we are at the end of the season.

"As I have said, we always need to give 100 per cent. I want us to have no regrets come the final whistle."

Antonio Conte claimed Borussia Dortmund feared Inter following the Nerazzurri's 2-0 Champions League victory on Wednesday.

Lautaro Martinez and Antonio Candreva both scored for Inter at San Siro, where the Italian side registered their first Champions League win under Conte.

Martinez – who also had a second-half penalty saved – made it five goals in four games for Inter as he opened the scoring in the 22nd minute before Candreva sealed the Group F points with a minute of regulation remaining.

It was Inter's first victory over German opposition since March 2011 and head coach Conte told Sky Sport Italia: "Borussia Dortmund changed their system to five at the back, which means they were afraid of us and wanted to play by changing their approach to mirror ours.

"We had prepared for a very different match, but did well to adjust. When Dortmund switched back to 4-2-3-1 after the break, we adjusted again and took control.

"We had prepared to press them in certain areas of the pitch and they changed their system, so that was no longer valid. The most important thing I told the lads was not to lose possession in central areas, as that is where they push forward on the counter.

"Roberto Gagliardini, Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic did a great job both in defending and attacking. I often tell Brozo off for attacking too much, but he had a great game tonight with both phases. Barella is so generous and passionate, but he does give me anxiety attacks when he gets booked after 10-15 minutes."

Inter now have four points from three games in Group F and moved up to second – ahead of Dortmund on goal difference – and three points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

"It's tough against Borussia Dortmund, who are a very good team. It's still difficult to qualify, but we know that we're alive and kicking," Conte added.

"It is not a simple situation. The lads did well and dealing with a series of injuries, we still put in a great performance. I am happy above all for the players, as these nights reward them for their sacrifices.

"I told the team that they worked so hard with Luciano Spalletti to qualify for the Champions League, so it was important we give our all to keep that dream going.

"We're not the favourites in this group, but we had to win to stay in the running and we did it. Now we've got Parma coming up, not even three days away, so we need to be very wary, as Saturday is the toughest game and not tonight."

Antonio Conte has commended the hard-working selflessness of Inter's in-form forwards and believes more of the same will help Lautaro Martinez realise his "immense" potential.

Argentina international Martinez has struck up a strong understanding with new strike partner Romelu Lukaku, as seen in Sunday's thrilling 4-3 victory over Sassuolo.

The forwards scored twice each in a devastating double act as the Nerazzurri secured a seventh win in eight Serie A games.

Martinez won the penalty for Lukaku's second goal and converted a spot-kick of his own in the second half after his team-mate gave up the chance to complete a hat-trick.

It is that sort of attitude that has impressed head coach Conte.

"I think Lukaku is a real team player," the Inter boss told a news conference on Tuesday.

"He celebrates his goals with the players and the bench. The press go from criticising to praising too quickly. I look at the performance, not just the numbers.

"I am very pleased with Lukaku. He has settled in well and impressed. We are a good group.

"As for Lautaro, he needs to keep working – that is what he has to focus on. Head down and pedal, as I say. Goals are important but that is not everything for a forward.

"He needs to work hard for the team, as he is doing. I like that he plays for the team. He is setting up goals and scoring.

"He has areas to work on, but he has immense potential."

Conte will hope Lukaku and Martinez can fire his team back into contention for a place in the Champions League knockout rounds when they entertain Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

Inter know anything less than three points would make qualification from Group F, which also contains Barcelona, a tall order.

Conte wants his side to get on the front foot at San Siro in spite of their suspect defending against Sassuolo.

"We will take the game to them," he said.

"We have our ideas and way we want to play. We know there will be risks, but we are a side that will look to take the initiative."

Romelu Lukaku described Inter coach Antonio Conte as a team player after rushing to the bench to celebrate a goal with his boss in the Nerazzurri's 4-3 victory at Sassuolo.

Conte called for Lukaku to "train more" after Inter lost two consecutive matches going into the international break, and the former Manchester Untied striker underlined his commitment to meet his coach's demands after netting a brace at MAPEI Stadium.

After goals at either end in the opening 16 minutes, Lukaku struck twice to put Inter 3-1 up at half-time against Sassuolo and Lautaro Martinez added a fourth to ensure the hosts' late rally came to nothing.

Belgium international Lukaku, who scored twice in his country's win over San Marino 10 days earlier, told DAZN: "It ought to have been over at 4-1.

"We did everything right in the first half, should have scored more in the second. Once it goes to 3-1 and 4-1, it ought to be over.

"The positive we take is that we got the three points, but we need to defend better than that. I try to help the team throughout the game and am happy for the side, because it was very important to get this win."

Lukaku has scored five goals in eight Serie A appearances for Inter since joining the club for €65million in August.

He is almost half way to matching his league tally of 12 for Manchester United last season but wants to make further improvements to his game at his new club.

"Conte and I are both team players, so when I score a goal, I want to celebrate with everyone," said the 26-year-old.

"I am focused only on working and giving my best in every match.

"I'm fine, but I have to work even more to help the team throughout the game. But today I'm happy because the victory was important for the group. Now I just think about improving again."

Inter do not need to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic to challenge in the Champions League and close the gap on Juventus in Serie A, according to Antonio Conte.

After going unbeaten in their opening seven matches under Conte, the Nerazzurri have lost their last two fixtures - against Barcelona in the Champions League before they went down 2-1 to Juve prior to the international break.

Injuries to Stefano Sensi and Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, have depleted Conte's squad heading into Sunday's meeting with Sassuolo.

Former Inter striker Ibrahimovic - whose contract with LA Galaxy expires in December - has claimed he would be open to a return to Serie A, though Conte does not believe his side need a player of the Swede's quality to push on.

"I do not talk about players that are not mine. It would not be respectful," Conte told a news conference when asked if Inter could move for Ibrahimovic.

"I have respect for Ibra of course, he is a quality player. He has made history in this game.

"I respect him and rate him but it is not right to talk of others, also because I have lots of faith in my players and I have so much respect for my squad. We will get better and keep improving. From these setbacks against Juve and Barca we must come back stronger.

"We need to keep being consistent, we need consistency in displays and training, we must improve every day, this is what I want. If we do this we will take the next step.

"In every match there are areas to work on. We always analyse the good and the bad. We have highlighted areas to work on. I cannot expect miracles."

Sanchez had started promisingly for Inter since arriving on loan from Manchester United, but is now expected to miss up to three months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury sustained while on international duty with Chile.

"I am upset to lose him. We are all disappointed," Conte said.

"He is a player we thought was back to his best. He was doing well and I was pleased. Now he is injured, it is a real shame also for him.

"He arrived full of enthusiasm and was doing well. He was showing he is the Sanchez of old.

"However, he is now injured and that is part of the game, I had lots of injuries as a player, but each time you come back stronger."

Juventus and Inter could well wage a title battle this season but Gianluigi Buffon holds no animosity towards former boss Antonio Conte for crossing the Derby d'Italia divide.

Conte took charge of Inter in May and guided the Nerazzurri to six straight victories in a blistering start to the new Serie A season.

The winning streak came to an end in a sobering 2-1 defeat to Juve, the team the former Italy boss captained and coached with distinction for a combined period of more than 15 years.

Ahead of the meeting, Conte hit out at the "ignorant" Juve fans who campaigned for his star on the club's Walk of Fame to be removed as a result of his switch to their bitter rivals.

"He was my team-mate and my captain at Juventus and then he was my manager for Juve and Italy," Buffon said at the Festival dello Sport.

"I know what type of person and professional he is, that's why I cannot blame him for any decision he takes in his career.

"He is an extremely passionate professional and he is always fair to the team and the players he works with.

"He is an extraordinary football teacher and puts all of himself into what he does. He cannot sleep at night if his team doesn't perform as well as he wants them to."

Juve's victory over Conte's side at San Siro saw the champions reclaim top spot going into the international break.

The match was billed as a test of Inter's title credentials and while Maurizio Sarri's men succeeded in restating their authority, veteran goalkeeper Buffon believes the manner of the win was worth more than three points.

"I don't think the victory over Inter had a huge importance [in terms of the title race] but I believe instead it was massively significant for the way we got the result," he said.

"In this case, we can say the way we played to win the game was more important than the victory itself."

Juve have attempted to cultivate a more fluid, positive approach since Sarri replaced Massimiliano Allegri, resulting in six wins and a draw from their opening seven Serie A matches.

Inter's 100 per cent start to the Serie A season came to a crashing halt on Sunday as champions Juventus returned to the top of the table with a significant win at San Siro.

Gonzalo Higuain's late strike sealed a 2-1 win for Maurizio Sarri's side as they inflicted a first domestic defeat on Antonio Conte since he joined the Nerazzurri ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

There is a two-week break now for international action before the sides return to domestic duties on the weekend of October 19/20.

Here, Omnisport predicts how both clubs could fare in their first five fixtures upon the resumption of Serie A and how the table might look come mid-November.

 

FAVOURABLE RUN FOR CONTE'S MEN

Predictions for next five fixtures:

- Sassuolo 0-3 Inter

- Inter 2-1 Parma

- Brescia 0-2 Inter

- Bologna 1-3 Inter

- Inter 3-0 Hellas Verona

Inter will be targeting a maximum points return from their five games and there is little reason they cannot achieve that, given the mediocrity of their opponents. They do not face a team that is currently positioned higher than 10th, which should have Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez licking their lips.

Given three of the games are away from home, Conte might remain cautious but there is a great chance to crank up the pressure on Juve.

TRICKY DOUBLE-HEADER AWAITS CHAMPIONS

Juventus 3-1 Bologna

Lecce 0-2 Juventus

Juventus 3-0 Genoa

Torino 1-1 Juventus

Juventus 2-2 AC Milan

Like Inter, Juventus take on a string of sides who have started the season in less than stellar fashion. They should have few problems in their first three games, given two of those sides currently languish in the relegation zone, but it is the games against Torino and AC Milan that could prove tricky.

With speculation mounting that Marco Giampaolo could lose his job at Milan, the Rossoneri might well be under new leadership by the time that fixture rolls around, while Torino will be fired up to get one over on their city rivals. Those factors could be enough to see Sarri's side drop points and hand the title advantage to Inter. 

If our predictions are correct, Inter will hold a three-point lead over Juve by the middle of November. Clearly, the race for the title will be far from over but it might just allow Conte and his men to dream about ending the Bianconeri's eight-year stranglehold on the scudetto.

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.

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."

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.

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