Christian Eriksen is yet to reach peak physical condition after joining Inter from Tottenham, according to head coach Antonio Conte.

Eriksen, who signed for the Serie A club in January, scored his first goal for Inter in Thursday's 2-0 Europa League last-32 win away at Ludogorets.

The Denmark international opened the scoring with a fine strike and also hit the crossbar with a powerful drive before Romelu Lukaku's late penalty put the Nerazzurri in complete control ahead of next week's second leg in Milan.

However, Conte feels there is a lot more to come from Eriksen.

"I'm happy for him, the goal always gives confidence," Conte told Sky Sport Italia after Inter bounced back from successive domestic defeats in Bulgaria.

"Christian just needs to work to find the right physical condition, to find the brilliance of his best moments at Tottenham.

"He can do even more than what he showed us today, but we are very happy because we know what he can give us."

Inter were again without goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, although deputy Daniele Padelli was completely untested as Ludogorets mustered only a single shot.

"It is a situation that we monitor day by day," Conte said of Handanovic, who has a hand injury.

"We have confidence in Daniele Padelli, and when he is ready to resume his place, he will. Until then, we continue with Padelli."

Christian Eriksen's first goal for Inter helped Antonio Conte's men earn a battling 2-0 away win against Ludogorets in the opening leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

The Serie A side were not at their best at Ludogorets Arena on Thursday but scored the opener from the best move of the match, Eriksen curling home from the edge of the box.

January signing Eriksen hit the crossbar from distance and Romelu Lukaku's late penalty confirmed a victory for the Nerazzurri that saw them bounce back from successive domestic defeats.

Inter, who began with Lukaku on the bench, struggled to impose themselves in the opening exchanges but Ludogorets goalkeeper Plamen Iliev had to make a smart stop to keep out Cristiano Biraghi's volley in the 25th minute.

The upright kept out Alexis Sanchez's clever flick after the restart, then Lautaro Martinez lashed a long-range strike narrowly over the crossbar as Inter increased the tempo.

Iliev made another fine save to turn away Eriksen's bouncing 20-yard volley, but the goalkeeper could do nothing about Inter's first goal in the 71st minute.

Sanchez and substitute Lukaku were involved in patient passing in the build-up, with Eriksen sweeping an excellent finish out of Iliev's reach.

It was almost 2-0 moments later as Eriksen's thumping drive beat Iliev but not the woodwork, Lukaku's arrival having given Ludogorets more to think about in defence.

Ludogorets, who were without their star striker Claudiu Keseru due to injury, failed to record a shot on target and face an uphill battle at San Siro next week after Lukaku converted from 12 yards in added time following Anicet Andrianantenaina's handball.


What does it mean? Inter get the job done

After consecutive defeats in the Coppa Italia and in Serie A to Napoli and Lazio respectively, Inter again found it difficult to produce their best football but they ground out a much-needed win. It is doubtful whether Conte values Europa League success over the Scudetto, though.

Iliev unlucky to miss out on clean sheet

Ludogorets had their backs against the wall for much of the game and relied on goalkeeper Iliev to keep them in the tie. He made a handful of excellent stops in a superb individual showing.

Martinez unable to justify Messi praise

Labelled "spectacular" by Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi in the build-up to the game, reported Barcelona target Martinez made very little impact before he was replaced by regular strike partner Lukaku.

What's next?

Ahead of next week's second leg, Inter host Sampdoria on Sunday while Bulgarian league leaders Ludogorets are away to Etar on the same day.

Christian Eriksen can help to raise Inter's collective level once he adapts to the side, according to head coach Antonio Conte.

The Denmark international has featured five times for Inter since completing a reported €20m (£16.9m) move from Tottenham in the January transfer window.

He has been restricted to one start and has yet to score or assist a goal for his new club, but Conte has called for patience before seeing the best of Eriksen in an Inter shirt.

"I see too much anxiety and little serenity," he said at Wednesday's news conference. "There is great serenity on our part. 

"The player wants to make himself available and we are calm.

"Every single player must think about improving himself, without thinking about who is next to him. We need individual growth, which can be put into the collective."

Conte will wait until Thursday before deciding whether to start Eriksen in the first leg of Inter's Europa League last-32 tie with Ludogorets.

Alexis Sanchez is also in line to feature from the start at Ludogorets Arena and Conte expects to see more from the on-loan forward once he gets a run of games under his belt.

"He has come back from a bad injury - he's been out for three months," Conte told reporters. 

"He is recovering well and is ready to start the game. We are talking about a player who hasn't played much in the last two years.

"He has to find the best physical shape and in this way it can help us achieve our goals."

Inter make the trip to Bulgaria on the back of just a second Serie A loss of the campaign last weekend, a 2-1 defeat to Lazio seeing them drop to third in Serie A.

"We were disappointed by the result, but not the performance," Conte said. "Lazio are one of the form sides in Italy right now.

"We put in a good performance and resume with our belief and our desire to improve - that must be our only objective.

"We're in Europe and it's right to give it our best, respect the competition as much as possible."

Christian Vieri believes only Paris Saint-Germain's attacking force of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi can compete with Inter's long-term strike partnership of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Inter are top of the table in a thrilling Serie A title race in which just one point separates the Nerazzurri from third-place Lazio, who host Antonio Conte's men in a huge contest at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Lukaku has enjoyed a fine start to life at Inter, scoring 17 goals in 23 top-flight appearances, while Martinez has contributed 11 in 20.

Former Inter striker Vieri says the future is bright for Conte's side and not many teams boast a better long-term strike force.

"The pairing of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez guarantees Inter both a present and future as a top club," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"They're among the best three-four partnerships in the world, so considering their age and prospects, only PSG can compete with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or Mauro Icardi."

Lazio have spent significantly less than Inter and second-place Juventus but are challenging in part due to Ciro Immobile's excellent return of 25 Serie A goals.

Immobile is the leading scorer in the league but Vieri says the Italy international and Lukaku, while outstanding talents in their own right, are not at the level of Juve forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who splits the two in the race for top-scorer honours.

"Ronaldo belongs to another category, he belongs to a world apart. He's a beast, always hungry, matched with impressive quality and technique," he added. 

"Lukaku is a pure centre-forward, devastating, physically strong. He fights, keeps the ball, helps his team-mates. Conte has helped Lukaku reach his physical peak.

"Immobile gives defenders a headache. He never stops moving and is incredibly difficult to mark. 

"He's more of an atypical striker, but is still lethal in front of goal, even with all that work. I respect him, he never stops working."

Having represented all three teams during a nomadic career, Vieri is well-placed to comment on a title race he believes is the best Serie A has seen in some time.

"It's the best title race in 10-15 years and I think it's going to be a battle right to the final round," the ex-Italy striker said.

Vieri also hailed Inter's signing of Christian Eriksen, a move he feels shows the club are displaying their ambition to return to the elite in European football.

"Inter want to win straight away, but with Eriksen, they also build for the future," he said. 

"He has so much quality, can cover all the midfield roles and the fact he chose the Nerazzurri confirms the club has grown on an international level."

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."

Christian Eriksen felt like "the black sheep" during his final months at Tottenham after admitting he wanted to leave.

Eriksen spoke of his desire for a new challenge last June but did not get his wish until the January transfer window when, with just five months remaining on his contract, he moved to Inter for £16.9million.

The intervening period saw Spurs struggle to match the progress of previous seasons, culminating in the sacking of manager Mauricio Pochettino in November.

Eriksen believes he was an easy target for frustrated supporters mystified at the club's poor form and says he paid the price for his honesty.

The Denmark midfielder told the BBC: "If you have a short contract, you will be the black sheep.

"Of course, I did the interview. I was very honest. I felt I had to be honest. I didn't want to hide like a lot of players do. Everyone is different. I was honest. I wanted to say it out loud.

"I did get the blame for a lot of stuff, for being the bad guy. I read I was the bad person in the changing room, that ever since I said I wanted to leave, it was no good me being there.

"To be honest, over the last few years, if anything came up, any player would think about leaving but I was the guy who said it publicly."

Pochettino was replaced by Jose Mourinho, who used Eriksen sparingly, although the former Ajax man can understand why.

He added: "I think Mourinho did well. He could have said 'he wants to leave, so he is not going to play any more'. He didn't do that.

"After I told him where my feelings were and what I would like to do, he told me just to be happy and if I was needed I would play.

"I was needed in a few games where I did make a difference. It was more as an extra rather than in the starting XI of course."

Eriksen had been regularly linked with Manchester United and, although talks were held with the Old Trafford club, he is happy with his decision to join Antonio Conte's Inter.

"We did speak to them [United], of course, and we did hear what was possible and what wasn't possible. But, in the end, me personally, I wanted a new challenge. To stay in the Premier League would have been an easy solution," he said.

"Of course, staying at Tottenham would also have been a solution but, for me, it just came down to wanting to try a new challenge in a new country. Once Inter came up it really wasn't a difficult choice.

"In my head and for my body, it is good that I am in a new place and I can start again."

Kylian Mbappe appears unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are continuing to track the forward.

Mbappe was unhappy with head coach Thomas Tuchel after being substituted during PSG's 5-0 Ligue 1 win over Montpellier on Saturday.

The pair were apparently part of talks that seemingly did not go that well on Sunday, once again sparking Madrid's interest.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE AMID PSG TROUBLES

Real Madrid are tracking the situation of Kylian Mbappe at PSG, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The France international is out of contract in 2022 and Madrid would hope to land the forward for less than €300million next year.

Le Parisien reports Mbappe, Tuchel and PSG sporting director Leonardo met on Sunday, but the relationship between coach and player may be at the point of no return.

ROUND-UP

- Lautaro Martinez has starred for Inter this season, scoring 11 Serie A goals. Corriere dello Sport reports the Italian giants are keen to offer Martinez an improved contract amid reported interest from Barcelona, with the Argentina international's deal expiring in 2023.

- Despite scoring only four Serie A goals this campaign, Lorenzo Insigne could be set to earn a new deal at Napoli. Corriere dello Sport says the forward is set for talks over a contract extension, with his deal set to expire in 2022.

- Lille forward Victor Osimhen is attracting interest from LaLiga's two biggest clubs. The 21-year-old is already up to 16 goals this season and Lille were contacted by Real Madrid and Barcelona at the end of the January transfer window, according to Le10sport.

- Christian Eriksen apparently could have ended up at Juventus. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A leaders were seriously considering the midfielder in December before they landed Dejan Kulusevski, leading to Inter making their move for the Tottenham star.

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."

Dele Alli admitted Tottenham have lost an "unbelievable player" in Christian Eriksen.

Eriksen, 27, finalised a long-awaited move to Inter on Tuesday in a deal reportedly worth €20million (£16.8m).

Spurs accepted the cut-price offer after the Danish playmaker entered the final six months of his contract.

Jose Mourinho claimed Eriksen lacked motivation but England international Alli had nothing but praise for his former team-mate, who spent six-and-a-half seasons in north London.

"He's a worldie," Alli told Sky Sports. "I sent him a sad face on message, but I'm sure I'll speak to him.

"He's an unbelievable player. Yeah, he'll be missed here, but this is a different step in his career.

"Since the start of the season there's been a lot of speculation and now it's gone through I wish him all the best, because he's a great friend and a great person."

Eriksen struggled to cement a regular place in Mourinho's starting side but Alli has had no such trouble, fast becoming a favourite under the former Manchester United manager.

The 23-year-old's form has improved since Mauricio Pochettino made way in November and he said was "feeling good" after a difficult start to the campaign.

"The more mature I'm getting, the more I'm playing and learning not just about football but about life," Alli said.

"It's nice to be praised, but the same people can be waiting to shoot you down. So you keep working hard, and listen to the right people. Whoever you choose to listen to is the main thing – the manager, players, team-mates and people around the club, their opinion is important.

"I think I can always do better. I've played well in some games, and in others I know I haven't played good enough."

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."

Christian Eriksen put his decision to leave Tottenham for Inter down to a desire to "try something new" after six and a half years in London.

Eriksen joined Spurs in 2013 from Ajax and enjoyed a productive spell with the club, swiftly establishing himself in the starting XI and becoming a key player.

During his time in the Premier League, Eriksen developed into one of English football's most acclaimed playmakers, with Manchester United and Real Madrid said to have been long-term admirers.

It became apparent Eriksen was not going to sign a new contract with Spurs during pre-season and, with speculation around his future, the Denmark international subsequently struggled for form.

He eventually sealed a move to Inter on Tuesday, with Spurs reportedly receiving €20million for him despite his contract expiring at the end of the season, and Eriksen explained his departure in a letter.

It read: "Dear Tottenham fans, I don't know where to start! I didn't have the time to say goodbye to everyone, even though it felt like I played a lot of games where everyone said and thought I would be gone the next day.

"I have so many unbelievable memories over the last six and a half years I was at Spurs. I enjoyed being at the training ground everyday and playing games in the stadium so much, but sometimes you just want to try something new!

"So, Spurs fans, it has been a pleasure to play at your club and hopefully we meet again in the future!"

Eriksen signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with Inter, while Spurs confirmed the permanent signing of Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis essentially as his replacement almost straight after the Serie A club made their announcement.

Spurs then followed that up with the acquisition of Netherlands international winger Steven Bergwijn on Wednesday.

Christian Eriksen has joined Inter in a move from Tottenham that is reportedly worth €20million.

Eriksen, 27, arrived in Milan on Monday to pass his medical and sign a contract that will run to June 30, 2024, with the Serie A club announcing the completed transfer on Tuesday.

The Denmark international spent six and a half years with Spurs but, with his contract set to expire at the end of this season, he had long been expected to leave.

Despite links with Manchester United and Real Madrid, among others, Inter have managed to bring the playmaker to San Siro.

In a statement in which they also announced the signing of Giovani Lo Celso on a permanent deal, Spurs said: "The club can also confirm the departure of Christian Eriksen after agreement was reached with FC Internazionale Milano for the Denmark international's transfer.

"He made 305 appearances for us following his move from Ajax in August, 2013, and scored 69 times.

"We wish Christian well for the future."

With his future in question, Eriksen had spent the first part of the season in and out of the Spurs team – his 20 Premier League appearances split evenly between starts and substitute outings.

His form unsurprisingly suffered as dip as a result as he mustered just two goals and two assists from those 20 games.

Fans had become increasingly critical of Eriksen's performances in recent times, with Spurs head coach Jose Mourinho acknowledging last week that the Dane had not been at his best despite insisting his application in training remained positive.

His form has not put off Inter, who will hope the signing helps to give them added impetus in the Serie A title race having fallen behind pacesetters Juventus since the turn of the year.

Antonio Conte's men are three points adrift of Juve following three successive league draws, the latest a 1-1 result at home to Cagliari on Sunday.

Eriksen is Inter's third signing of the month, with all three coming from Premier League sides following the arrivals of Ashley Young and Victor Moses from Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively.

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