When the Inter and Milan starting XIs lined up before a cacophonous San Siro on Sunday, there were all the usual sights.

Fierce, steely stares, necks being flexed, legs shaken out. Big-match anxiety writ large.

Then there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, turning around wide-eyed to survey the scene and wearing a big grin.

Perhaps he knew all along. Or thought he did.

Ibrahimovic's return to this fixture was a blessing for Milan, largely because it diverted the attention away from the gulf that has opened up between themselves and their great rivals since Antonio Conte took charge of the Nerazzurri.

"He is a champion who gives Milan quality and charisma," Conte said of Ibrahimovic in the build-up, although even in acknowledging this he could scarcely have envisaged the first-half evisceration his title-aspirants would endure, before turning the tables to top the table with a 4-2 derby win for the ages.

Now 38, Ibrahimovic's frequent aggrandisement – which always seemed to pinball between self-deprecation and a yawing lack of self-awareness – has come to grate as much as it entertains.

It was easy to conclude a Milan marooned in mismanagement and mediocrity had bought into the myth rather than the aging man the wrong side of major knee surgery when they offered him a route back from his expected retirement home in Major League Soccer.

The Rossoneri entered Sunday's game seven places and 19 points shy of Inter, but yet to taste defeat in the seven matches since Ibrahimovic's second debut.

In this Derby della Madonnina – a fixture where he, of course, knows both sides of the divide – he was Milan's talisman.

Stefano Pioli's team drove forward from kick-off and there were 67 seconds on the clock when Ibrahimovic lashed over on the volley from Samu Castillejo's cross.

The most striking element of the veteran's early contribution was his capacity to elevate those around him. Castillejo always had someone to hit from the right flank and was a constant threat, while Ante Rebic looked more like the player from Croatia's run to the 2018 World Cup final as opposed to the beleaguered individual Milan were recently hoping to send packing back to Eintracht Frankfurt.

The twinkle-toed Hakan Calhanoglu was the pick of the bunch, rifling against the post after nine minutes and popping up with palpable menace across the final third thereafter, never far away from a shrewd pass or lay-off to Ibrahimovic.

Inter were struggling to get out of their own half and, in line with trepidation painted across a touchline-prowling Conte, they fell behind.

Of course Ibrahimovic was involved, muscling above Diego Godin to knock down Castillejo's cross for Rebic to scramble past a bizarrely hesitant Samir Handanovic.

A VAR review did not spare Godin, the sort of reprieve it is hard to imagine would sit well with the gloriously grizzled centre-back. In mano-e-mano combat he simply came off second best to an opponent on a mission.

If Ibrahimovic's role in the opener was about brute strength, for number two he resorted to stealth, stealing into space at the far post as Milan Skriniar's gaze was diverted to the ball. Soon enough it was behind him and being nodded into the net by the man of the moment. Arms aloft, script fulfilled.

Only Conte and his warriors in blue and black, with the blood of an undulating Scudetto race in their nostrils, had other ideas.

Antonio Candreva thumped goalwards in the 51st minute. Blocked. Marcelo Brozovic thumped harder. 2-1.

In a flash, it was all square as a darting Alexis Sanchez was played onside by Andrea Conti's heal and he cut back for Matias Vecino to score.

Godin supplied the pass to Sanchez and the sense of Inter's centre-backs being freed from their earlier Ibrahimovic ordeal was underlined by Stefan de Vrij heading home, putting them on course for the sweetest of victories.

Ibrahimovic thundered a long-range free-kick just wide, crashing it into the advertising hoardings with the same force Milan's earlier dreams met reality, and a towering header hit the post.

Having just about negotiated the man with the occasional God complex, Conte brought on Victor Moses to set up a fourth for the prolific Romelu Lukaku. It's 54 points apiece with Juventus at the summit and Inter, with goal difference in their favour, might just have taken a significant step towards their promised land.

Inter came from two goals down to earn a famous 4-2 victory over Milan in a gripping Derby della Madonnina that sent the Nerazzurri top of Serie A.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to haunt his former club with a goal and an assist for Ante Rebic as Milan raced ahead before half-time, but the 38-year-old striker could not maintain his unbeaten run since returning to San Siro in January.

The Rossoneri's hopes of causing an upset faded in the space of two second-half minutes that saw Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino plunder quickfire goals to get Inter back on level terms.

Antonio Conte's men took the lead 20 minutes from time through Stefan de Vrij's superbly executed header and Romelu Lukaku scored in second-half stoppage time to make sure his side leapfrogged Lazio and Juventus into top spot.

Antonio Conte predicted the Milan derby will stoke strong emotions for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and said he has "great respect" for the Rossoneri striker.

Milan are unbeaten in five Serie A games since Ibrahimovic arrived on a free transfer from LA Galaxy in January, the 38-year-old scoring once in the league and once in the Coppa Italia.

After missing Milan's 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona due to an illness, Ibrahimovic is expected to be available for selection on Sunday.

Stefano Pioli's men trail Inter by 19 points ahead of the Derby della Madonnina but Inter boss Conte said Ibrahimovic's uplifting effect on his team-mates would make for a better game at San Siro.

"I think it's nice to see all the players available in the most important games," Conte told reporters. "The spectacle benefits.

"He is a champion who gives Milan quality and charisma.

"I have great respect for Ibra, he is a former Inter player and I think that for him, in terms of emotions, it will be a strong game."

Conte was asked about the fitness of Samir Handanovic, after the Nerazzurri goalkeeper suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand, but gave little away.

"The medical staff can speak about specific situations - they are much more competent than I am," he replied.

He spoke more positively about Christian Eriksen's progress, the midfielder having played twice since joining Inter from Tottenham, in a 2-0 Serie A win at Udinese and a 2-1 Coppa Italia victory over Fiorentina.

Asked how long the 27-year-old needs to be 100 per cent fit, Conte said: "I hope not so much. He played part of the match against Fiorentina and started in Udine.

"He needs the right time to learn my ideas but he is a very intelligent boy. He quickly understands our game principles and I'm happy for that.

"Eriksen is a player who arrived at Inter with precise characteristics. We bought him for a certain way of playing.

"Let's not forget that in Italy there is much more tactical emphasis and more is asked than abroad. Often they are not very fixated on some situations: it is right that he has his time to get into his idea of ​​the game."

A season is a long time in football.

Rewind to 2018-19 and Inter pipped Milan to the fourth and final Champions League spot by a solitary point.

Fast forward to this season and Milan find themselves ninth and 19 points adrift of their title-chasing Serie A neighbours in February.

As Milan and Inter prepare for Sunday's latest instalment of the Derby della Madonnina, we look at why the Rossoneri have fallen so far behind the Nerazzurri this term.

 

COACHING APPOINTMENTS

Inter brought in a winner. The Suning Holdings Group were determined to sign former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and they got their man. 

Milan were linked to Conte, but Paolo Maldini and the red half of the city were never able to provide the funds necessary for his arrival. Instead, Milan turned to Marco Giampaolo as the replacement for Gennaro Gattuso. There were high hopes for Giampaolo, given the brand of football on show during his time at Sampdoria. However, cracks quickly appeared and he was sacked after just seven games, which included a 2-0 loss to Inter.

That led to Stefano Pioli. An unpopular choice having previously coached Inter, Maldini and the board found themselves under pressure. Despite hardly being an exciting appointment following spells at Fiorentina, Lazio, Bologna and Palermo, Pioli has overseen some improvement. Milan have gone seven games without defeat, though the jury is still out.

 

SIGNINGS

Finances help but recruitment could not be further apart. Boosted by the income of Champions League football and the demands of Conte, Inter have splashed the cash in 2019-20. It took a club-record transfer to prise Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United. Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Christian Eriksen, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Ashley Young, Victor Moses and Cristiano Biraghi have all joined the blue half of Milan and made impacts. Valentino Lazaro also arrived but has since moved to Newcastle United on loan.

The additions of Gonzalo Higuain and Leonardo Bonucci were supposed to awaken sleeping giants Milan in 2017, helping to restore their glory days, but the transfer market has not been kind to the Rossoneri. Milan's recent woes can be traced back to the signing of Krzysztof Piatek last term. The Poland striker had taken Italy by storm just six months into his move to Genoa with 19 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions. It prompted Milan to spend big and while there were glimpses of his talent, Piatek's January switch to Hertha Berlin proves they were hasty in their decision to entrust him with the iconic number nine shirt.

The purchase of Theo Hernandez has proven to be a bargain, while Rafael Leao and Ismael Bennacer are some of Maldini and Zvonimir Boban's better deals when you compare them to the likes of Rade Krunic, Leo Duarte and Ante Rebic – who up until the turn of the year was virtually non-existent.

Then there is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His return in January raised some eyebrows, given his age at 38, but the superstar striker has provided leadership and character to the dressing room, helping the team on a seven-match unbeaten run. A rare tick for Milan in recent transfer windows.

 

OFF THE FIELD

Inter are a club thriving on and off the pitch. Conte and CEO Giuseppe Marotta – his trusted friend at Juventus – have the Nerazzurri dreaming of the Scudetto. Milan, on the other hand, could not be further away from ending a title drought dating back to 2011.

A lot of Milan's problems stem from ownership and numerous changes at the top. The last time Milan claimed the Scudetto, Silvio Berlusconi was in charge and Ibrahimovic was playing alongside Ronaldinho, Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta. Since then, a Chinese consortium pledged to lead Milan back to the promised land in 2017. It turned out the new owners did not have the funds required and it led to Elliott Management taking over. The change in ownership sparked upheaval – CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli were replaced, while Leonardo came and went.

While doubts remain over Maldini and Boban, Milan need a period of stability – especially off the field – to help get back to challenging for domestic and European honours.

Antonio Conte insisted he was pleased with Christian Eriksen's performance despite substituting the midfielder early in the second half of Inter's 2-0 win at Udinese.

Following his arrival from Tottenham, Eriksen came off the bench in the midweek Coppa Italia tie against Fiorentina, replacing Alexis Sanchez.

The Denmark international was handed the chance to start for the first time in Serie A on Sunday, recording 51 touches and completing 78 per cent of his attempted passes before he was replaced in the 58th minute.

It was 0-0 at the time of the change but Inter went on to collect all three points thanks to a Romelu Lukaku brace, taking the Belgian's tally in Serie A this season to 16 goals.

Conte – who saw his team end a run of three successive league draws – called for patience with Eriksen, despite expressing his satisfaction with the 27-year-old's efforts during his time on the pitch.

"I think that for someone who arrived five days ago, and we should not forget we had to rush him in because we were missing several midfielders, Eriksen still made a positive impact," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"Obviously, he needs to get settled into our style of football and also find the right fitness levels for Serie A, but I am very pleased with his full debut.

"He will get to learn the positioning we ask of our midfielders, but these are early days and I am satisfied."

After opening the scoring with a left-footed shot in the 64th minute, Lukaku converted from the penalty spot following a foul on substitute Sanchez.

The result sees Inter move above Lazio into second place in the table, three points behind leaders Juventus, ahead of next weekend's Milan derby at San Siro.

"The match against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia gave us a boost," Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia. "We knew that it wouldn't be easy here in Udinese, but in the second half we did well.

"We managed to score two goals and get all three points. It's an important victory on our journey. We must now keep this up and turn our attention immediately to the derby against Milan."

Inter returned to winning ways in Serie A as Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the second half to secure a 2-0 triumph away at lowly Udinese.

Antonio Conte's side had drawn their three previous league outings and, with leaders Juventus defeating Fiorentina 3-0 earlier on Sunday, appeared in danger of losing further ground in the title race.

However, after a scoreless first half, Lukaku's brace moved Inter back above Lazio and into second place, three points behind the reigning champions.  

January additions Christian Eriksen and Victor Moses were handed their full debuts by Conte while teenager Sebastiano Esposito filled in up front for the suspended Lautaro Martinez.

Yet the fresh faces failed to inspire, and it was Udinese who were the more threatening side in the first half. Seko Fofana fired into the side netting and Jens Stryger Larsen saw an on-target strike blocked by Ashley Young.

Lukaku had been on the periphery of proceedings before converting his first attempt of the game, his low, left-footed effort in the 64th minute going through the legs of Bram Nuytinck to beat Juan Musso.

The Belgian's second arrived from the penalty spot seven minutes later, Musso having been spectacularly up-ending Alexis Sanchez as the substitute attempted to skip beyond the advancing goalkeeper.

Kevin Lasagna twice dragged efforts wide in the closing stages as Udinese drew a blank, the hosts managing just one shot on target as they allowed Inter goalkeeper Daniele Padelli a comfortable outing while standing in for the injured Samir Handanovic.

Christian Eriksen's decision to choose Inter over a host of other European giants is proof the club are on the right track, according to head coach Antonio Conte.

Eriksen completed a move from Tottenham to Inter on Tuesday, becoming the Serie A club's third addition of the January window after Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

He was brought on as a substitute with 24 minutes remaining in Wednesday's Coppa Italia quarter-final and is in contention to make his first start in the Serie A visit to Udinese on Sunday.

Conte says Eriksen was courted by a number of other clubs, and he believes the Dane's decision to move to San Siro is evidence of Inter's status as one of Europe's most attractive propositions.

"Eriksen was a great coup for this club as he had so many options to choose from and he chose Inter," Conte told a media conference.

"That proves Inter are seen the right way and we are all working to ensure the brand maintains this lustre.

"Eriksen hasn't been playing very much lately for Spurs, but all told, he is in decent physical shape and is starting to get into our ideas of football.

"We talked to him a great deal, so he understands what we want from him and fortunately he is a quick learner."

Asked if the arrivals of Eriksen, Young and Moses will give Inter enough to win the Scudetto, Conte said: "Time will tell. I am happy to work with these players, but they still need to learn the style of football and the language.

"When the intensive period of the fixture list begins, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope there are no injuries.

"You all saw what happened in the first five months, as there were players forced to play every three days. I hope to have more options to choose and rotate."

Lautaro Martinez will miss the visit to Udinese as he starts a two-match ban, with Conte confirming 17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito or Alexis Sanchez will partner Romelu Lukaku in attack.

"Lautaro is a big miss, considering his strong rapport with Romelu Lukaku," Conte added. "It's an opportunity for those who haven't played as much to make the most of the situation. Either Sebastiano Esposito or Alexis Sanchez will start.

"Marcelo Brozovic had his first training session with us yesterday and is coming to Udine, then we'll evaluate his fitness there.

"I expect a tough game, as Udinese are a very physical side with strong quality too. It'll be a hard match, as they all are in Serie A."

Antonio Conte was reluctant to introduce Christian Eriksen for his Inter debut so soon, only doing so due to a lack of midfield options in the 2-1 win over Fiorentina.

Eriksen completed a move from Tottenham to Inter on Tuesday, becoming the Serie A club's third addition of the January window after Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

He was brought on as a substitute with 24 minutes remaining in Wednesday's Coppa Italia quarter-final, with Nicolo Barella scoring what proved to be a stunning winner 42 seconds later.

The playmaker, who replaced Alexis Sanchez from the bench, thought he had capped his debut with an assist when he fed Lautaro Martinez, only for the offside flag to rule out Inter's third goal. 

However, Conte revealed he did not plan on utilising his latest signing so soon after Eriksen's arrival at San Siro.

"We did not intend to use Eriksen so soon, as he only started training with us yesterday, but Matias Vecino and Barella were the only available midfielders," Conte told Rai Sport.

"Eriksen has character and raises the quality level of the squad. I hope to get more players back, because we really are limited in the middle.

"We tried a system with a trequartista today to deal with the absence of Stefano Sensi and Marcelo Brozovic. Eriksen can play in a few different roles, and we'll see - it could be an option, but we need to work on it a lot more.

"We were rather forced into using the three strikers together because I found out about the problems in midfield."

Inter had the better of proceedings for large swathes of Wednesday's meeting at San Siro, but Martin Caceres had cancelled out Antonio Candreva's opener prior to Barella's wonderful half-volley.

"I tried and it went right into the far bottom corner. I must learn to score easier goals," joked Italy international Barella to Rai Sport. 

"We deserved this victory. We must give more in Serie A, but we've also been a little unlucky in some circumstances. There's time, it's a long campaign."

Barella seems set to compete with Eriksen for a starting spot in Inter's midfield, but the 22-year-old is relishing the opportunity to play alongside the former Spurs man.

"My adventure at Inter is going very well, everyone has faith in me and we are doing something important," Barella added.

"Eriksen is world class and will raise the quality level of the whole squad. I hope he can soon make San Siro burst with joy."

Inter completed the semi-final line-up of the Coppa Italia as Nicolo Barella's stunning strike secured a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina on a night where Christian Eriksen made his Nerazzurri debut at San Siro.

Coming into Wednesday's encounter on the back of three successive 1-1 draws in Serie A, Inter looked to be heading for the same result after Martin Caceres cancelled out Antonio Candreva's 44th-minute opener.

Yet within seconds of Eriksen entering the fray for his Inter bow, the home side retook the lead thanks to a sublime half-volley from Barella.

Napoli now await Inter in the last four next month, with Juventus and Milan meeting in the other semi-final.

Pol Lirola and Alexis Sanchez exchanged efforts early on - Fiorentina's wing-back drilling wide before the Inter forward directed a close-range header at Pietro Terracciano.

A tepid first half looked set to end scoreless, but despite creating very little since the opening minutes, Inter had the lead when Candreva slotted into an empty net after Lautaro Martinez had bundled the ball into his path.

Martinez could have turned from provider to scorer moments after the restart but sent a powerful effort into the side netting.

Sanchez was just inches away from putting the hosts 2-0 up when his low strike crept wide, while Martinez sent a half-volley just over.

But just after Terracciano denied Matias Vecino a goal against his former club, Inter were made to pay for their profligacy on the hour as Caceres outmuscled Martinez to head home.

Samir Handanovic pulled off a brilliant save from Dusan Vlahovic to keep the scores level, and Antonio Conte quickly responded by bringing on Eriksen for his debut.

And though Eriksen was not involved, Inter led less than a minute after his introduction, Barella arrowing a wonderful half-volley into the bottom-left corner.

Martinez later had a goal - teed up by Eriksen - ruled out for offside, but the Nerazzurri sealed progression.

 

What does it mean? Inter ease Serie A frustration with cup run

It has been a frustrating start to 2020 in the league for Inter, with their draws allowing Juve to establish a three-point lead at the top.

But they are well in the hunt for silverware now in a competition they have not won since 2010-11, which is also the last time the Nerazzurri reached the final.

Barella sets the bar for new boy Eriksen

Eriksen had been on the pitch for just 42 seconds when his fellow midfielder restored Inter's advantage, Barella showing his worth to Conte's side with a brilliant all-round display capped off with a fantastic goal.

Playmaker Eriksen will surely be starting soon enough, but on this evidence, it will certainly not be at Barella's expense.

Sanchez the man at risk?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has surprisingly claimed Sanchez does have a future at Manchester United, but it seems the Chilean's first priority must be to ensure he is in Inter's starting XI.

He drifted in and out of Wednesday's clash and, with Eriksen chomping at the bit, could be the player to make way.

What's next?

Both sides return to Serie A action on Sunday, with Inter travelling to Udinese as Fiorentina face league leaders Juventus.

Inter completed the semi-final line-up of the Coppa Italia as Nicolo Barella's stunning strike secured a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina at San Siro.

Coming into Wednesday's encounter on the back of three successive 1-1 draws in Serie A, Inter looked to be heading for the same result after Martin Caceres cancelled out Antonio Candreva's 44th-minute opener.

Yet within seconds of Christian Eriksen entering the fray for his Inter bow, the home side retook the lead thanks to a sublime half-volley from Barella.

Napoli now await Inter in the last four next month, with Juventus and Milan meeting in the other semi-final.

Pol Lirola and Alexis Sanchez exchanged efforts early on - Fiorentina's wing-back drilling wide before the Inter forward directed a close-range header at Pietro Terracciano.

A tepid first half looked set to end scoreless, but despite creating very little since the opening minutes, Inter had the lead when Candreva slotted into an empty net after Lautaro Martinez had bundled the ball into his path.

Martinez could have turned from provider to scorer moments after the restart but sent a powerful effort into the side netting.

Sanchez was just inches away from putting the hosts 2-0 up when his low strike crept wide, while Martinez sent a half-volley just over.

But just after Terracciano denied Matias Vecino a goal against his former club, Inter were made to pay for their profligacy on the hour as Caceres outmuscled Martinez to head home.

Samir Handanovic pulled off a brilliant save from Dusan Vlahovic to keep the scores level, and Antonio Conte quickly responded by bringing on Eriksen for his debut.

And though he Eriksen was not involved, Inter led less than a minute after his introduction, Barella arrowing a wonderful half-volley into the bottom-left corner.

Martinez later had a goal - teed up by Eriksen - ruled out for offside, but the Nerazzurri sealed progression.

 

What does it mean? Inter ease Serie A frustration with cup run

It has been a frustrating start to 2020 in the league for Inter, with their draws allowing Juve to establish a three-point lead at the top.

But they are well in the hunt for silverware now in a competition they have not won since 2010-11, which is also the last time the Nerazzurri reached the final.

Barella sets the bar for new boy Eriksen

Eriksen had been on the pitch for just 42 seconds when his fellow midfielder restored Inter's advantage, Barella showing his worth to Conte's side with a brilliant all-round display capped off with a fantastic goal.

Playmaker Eriksen will surely be starting soon enough, but on this evidence, it will certainly not be at Barella's expense.

Sanchez the man at risk?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has surprisingly claimed Sanchez does have a future at Manchester United, but it seems the Chilean's first priority must be to ensure he is in Inter's starting XI.

He drifted in and out of Wednesday's clash and, with Eriksen chomping at the bit, could be the player to make way.

What's next?

Both sides return to Serie A action on Sunday, with Inter travelling to Udinese as Fiorentina face league leaders Juventus.

Antonio Conte admitted Inter face a midfield "emergency" as he dismissed transfer talk as making it look like the club were "buying half of Real Madrid".

Conte is considering giving new recruits Ashley Young and Victor Moses immediate debuts against Cagliari on Sunday, with Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud and Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen also thought to be targets.

With Marcelo Brozovic suffering an ankle injury in last weekend's draw at Lecce, Antonio Candreva suspended and Valentin Lazaro loaned to Newcastle, Inter lack engine-room options for the San Siro clash.

The 1-1 outcome against Lecce has left Inter four points behind Serie A leaders Juventus.

Asked whether the confirmed new arrivals could figure, after Young signed from Manchester United and Moses was prised from Chelsea on loan, Conte stressed he would do whatever it takes to ensure Inter are competitive in midfield.

Young and Moses can both play as attacking full-backs or in wide midfield roles.

"Tomorrow we are in emergency," Conte said in a Saturday news conference.

"We have only three midfielders. Candreva is suspended and Lazaro has left, meaning we will also need to make hasty decisions.

"However, as for the title we need to focus on ourselves. This is what we have to do at all times. We cannot worry about the other teams. Let us focus on ourselves and our job. I want us to keep improving. Let us keep up this enthusiasm."

Eriksen was left out of Tottenham's team on Saturday for the FA Cup game against Southampton, indicating he may have played his last game for former Inter boss Jose Mourinho.

Yet Conte has become bemused by media coverage of Inter's pursuit of new players, telling reporters: "You make it seem that we're buying half of Real Madrid."

Conte outlined Inter's transfer policy and said supporters should not expect Young and Moses to instantly become game-changers with the Nerazzurri.

"If we get cash then we will invest I think," Conte said. "But I don't think that is a surprise or anything strange. We want to strengthen this squad.

"[Chief executive Giuseppe] Marotta has been very clear on this matter. If we bring in two players, for instance, two will leave. But let us keep our feet on the ground.

"We cannot put too much expectation on the new arrivals. Young and Moses did not play much at their previous clubs so they need time to settle. Let us be patient and give them time."

Criticism of Inter's performance in the draw at Lecce rankles with Conte, who says his team cannot always play at their peak.

"Listen, it is simple," he said. "We need to go at full pelt in every game.

"I know that is not always possible. During a season there are lots of games, so you cannot always give 110 per cent. It is normal to have an off day every now and then. That is football and it happens."

Inter have announced the signing of Victor Moses from Chelsea on a loan deal with an option to buy.

The 29-year-old moves to Serie A for the remainder of the campaign after spending the first half of this season with Fenerbahce in the Turkish Super Lig.

Moses was a key player under Antonio Conte when Chelsea last won the Premier League title in 2016-17 and will reunite with his old boss at San Siro.

Inter did not confirm the details of the purchase option, but it has been reported they will need to pay €10million to sign the Nigeria international.

Antonio Conte felt Inter were sluggish in a 1-1 draw at Lecce and warned the Nerazzurri cannot afford to dip below 200 kilometres per hour in their intensity.

Inter had the opportunity to return to the top of Serie A, at least until Juventus played later on Sunday, but toiled to a second successive league draw.

Substitute Alessandro Bastoni scored his first Nerazzurri goal to seemingly set the away side on course for a scrappy win 19 minutes from time, only for Marco Mancosu to hit back.

Conte was disappointed with the lack of vigour in his side's display, claiming they are merely "a normal team" when playing at that level.

"The draw stems from the fact that we must always go at 200 [km] an hour," he said.

"When someone is below that, we cannot afford it. Then the level of the team drops and it can happen that you draw a game that you should have taken three points from.

"We are not a team that manages to bring home the victory going at an average speed. We must always go to the maximum - we have done so in all the matches of the first half of the season.

"When we can't get to the maximum, we are a normal team."

Conte was called out by Jose Mourinho earlier in the week amid the perception he had openly discussed Inter's interest in Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Inter chief Giuseppe Marotta spoke about Eriksen on Sunday, but Conte was not willing to follow suit.

"This month is difficult to manage. I think I have been very clear - even if sometimes the things I say are then exploited," he said. "I don't want to talk about the market.

"That is for the club - I am the coach and I have to try to bring out the best in my players."

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho hit out at Antonio Conte for speaking publicly about Inter's pursuit of Christian Eriksen.

Eriksen, 27, is out of contract at Tottenham at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with a move to the Serie A side.

Mourinho reignited his feud with Conte as speculation continues over Eriksen, criticising the Inter boss for discussing the midfielder publicly.

Conte is reported to have said: "Eriksen? We have to go to people who have already had a career, who are at the end of their contracts."

"I think Antonio, I think Antonio. I think it was publicly. He is very positive that Eriksen is coming to Inter," Mourinho told UK newspapers when asked who from Inter had been quoted about the Dane, via The Guardian.

"We shouldn't speak about players from other clubs until they become our players. You ask me about Gedson [Fernandes] since the moment Gedson's name was on the screen and I told you nothing.

"You protect everybody. Is it a question of respect? I don't want to give you a headline. That's up to you.

"If Inter are confident, they are confident because they are ready to make us an offer, which didn't happen yet. So when I see people speaking, especially people with responsibilities, I am a little bit surprised."

Mourinho coached Inter from 2008 to 2010, leading the club to two Serie A titles and a Champions League crown.

But the Portuguese tactician said no transfer move would impact his relationship with the club.

"This is not my Inter. I have no connections with the people [running the club] so I think it's nothing to do with that," Mourinho said.

"Nothing can change my feeling with Inter. It's not a situation with a player that is going to change my feeling with the club and the fans. No chance."

Lautaro Martinez is "very happy" at Inter despite his form this season prompting reported interest from across Europe.

Argentina striker Martinez scored his 15th goal of the campaign during Inter's 1-1 draw against Atalanta at the weekend.

The 22-year-old's partnership in attack with Romelu Lukaku has established the Nerazzurri as serious title challengers to Juventus in Serie A.

His performances have also apparently caught the attention of Barcelona, who are facing up to four months without Luis Suarez, while it has also been claimed Manchester City view Martinez as a suitable long-term heir to their all-time record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

"I'm very happy here at Inter, people love me and I love them," Martinez told TyC Sports.

"If you talk about me [as a transfer target] it is because I do my job well. I must continue on this path.

"I am very calm, I live day to day and I am happy and comfortable here."

Conte took charge of Inter before the start of this season and Martinez credits the former Juve and Chelsea boss as a driving force behind his rapid progress.

“Many things have changed since he came in," Martinez said. "He has a special way of doing things and has taught us so much from his first day in charge.

"He has convinced us to all give our best and the results are there for all to see.

“I have had to adapt to a new culture in another country and learn another language. I played little under the previous manager, but under Conte I have grown a lot and I am enjoying how things are going."

Conte secured the capture of Lukaku from Manchester United, a player he tried to sign at Chelsea, and Martinez has been a huge beneficiary of the head coach getting his man.

"Lukaku helps me a lot, he is a player who – on and off the field – is very important to me," Martinez said of the Belgium international, who has 18 goals in all competitions this term.

"He is a very good person who helps me out. I am very happy to have met him.”

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