Romelu Lukaku hopes Inter are learning as they continue to struggle to perform consistently over 90 minutes despite sitting second in Serie A and reaching the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia.

Lukaku headed an extra-time winner to see off Fiorentina 2-1 in the Coppa on Wednesday, his 119th-minute goal settling a tie in which Inter had led at half-time through Arturo Vidal's penalty.

A dominant first 45 minutes had seen the Nerazzurri attempt eight shots to Fiorentina's one, while having 56.6 per cent of the possession.

But Christian Kouame equalised after 57 minutes, prior to Lukaku's introduction as a substitute, as the Viola outshot their visitors nine to six in the second period.

For Inter, it was a second successive match in which they lost the initiative, even if Lukaku's goal this time meant they advanced to face Milan in the last eight.

At Roma on Sunday, despite trailing at half-time, quickfire goals from Milan Skriniar and Achraf Hakimi had Antonio Conte's men in front before they conceded a late leveller.

Ahead of the Roma game, Conte had bemoaned Inter's inability to make fast starts, having led at the interval just four times in Serie A this term.

But Lukaku is now concerned by his team's displays from half-time onwards, a period in which they have scored an impressive 30 goals and conceded just 12 in the league.

"I don't know why it happens," Lukaku told Rai Sport. "We already said it after the draw against Roma that it shouldn't happen, but it happened, even if we still won this time.

"We are young, we must learn from these things, but we want to improve."

Having booked the meeting with Milan, a fixture he was reluctant to immediately discuss, Lukaku acknowledged there were still positives.

"We are happy to have won a difficult match against a great coach [Fiorentina's Cesare Prandelli]," he said. "We are happy and we want to continue like this."

Turning focus back to Serie A, Inter face champions Juventus next on Sunday, with the Derby d'Italia rivals determined to win to keep the pressure on leaders Milan.

"I expect a tactical match between two teams who are doing good things," Lukaku added. "Juventus are a big team. We want to prepare well for this match."

Substitute Romelu Lukaku rescued Inter with a 119th-minute winner to knock Fiorentina out of the Coppa Italia with a 2-1 win for the second season running.

Lukaku started from the bench ahead of Sunday's Derby d'Italia against Juventus but was called for in the second half after Christian Kouame had cancelled out Arturo Vidal's penalty opener.

There was no immediate impact as the Nerazzurri sought to get their season back on track, having taken just a point from their prior two Serie A matches.

Yet Lukaku made his mark deep into extra time at the Artemio Franchi, powering a header past Pietro Terracciano to book Inter's place in the quarter-finals.

Romelu Lukaku has power like NBA great Shaquille O'Neal, according to his Inter team-mate Nicolo Barella. 

Inter are just three points adrift of city rivals Milan at the top of Serie A ahead of a key week that sees them face Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia and champions Juventus in the league. 

Lukaku has made an impressive impact at San Siro since joining from Manchester United in 2019. 

He scored 34 times in all competitions last season and has already racked up 16 goals in 2020-21. 

The Belgium international's 12 league strikes this season are second only to another former United star, Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo (15). 

Barella has relished the chance to play alongside Lukaku with Inter. 

"He has physical power like Shaquille O'Neal: they make power their greatest strength," Barella said to DAZN. 

"Nobody can move him - even in training, three players are needed to stop him. But he is also so much more [than power]. 

"Romi is a great leader: he manages to have a good word for everyone, he has a good relationship with everyone and then on the pitch he is decisive like no other.  

"He arrived and it was incredible: he already spoke Italian! But for him it must be easy, he knows all the languages of the world!  

"He is a force of nature." 

Inter improved to second place in Antonio Conte's debut season last year, though they are still waiting for their first trophy since 2011 after agonisingly losing the Europa League final to Sevilla. 

"Losing the Europa League final was the biggest disappointment of my football career," added Barella, who went on to praise the coaching of Conte. 

"We deserved it, deserved to win that cup. 

"At home I am very ordered and now I'm becoming a little bit like that on the pitch too, all thanks to Antonio Conte. 

"Before I was more free-spirited, now the coach has given me many ideas, he taught me to choose the moments. I study a lot on the pitch. 

"Playing with great champions I try to steal something from each of them, I observe them and I try to make the best parts of their game mine."

Where will Erling Haaland be playing in 2021-22?

The Borussia Dortmund forward has a long list of admirers, particularly in England.

Both Manchester clubs want Haaland, though City fancy their chances.

 

TOP STORY – CITY BELIEVE THEY HOLD HAALAND EDGE OVER UTD

Manchester City are hoping to use their Jadon Sancho sell-on clause to beat neighbours Manchester United to the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to The Sun.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked to the likes of City, United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool following his exploits for Dortmund.

City have a 15 per cent sell-on clause following Sancho's move to Dortmund in 2017 and they believe it could help in their Haaland pursuit, with the Premier League giants open to waiving or renegotiating the clause.

Sancho was tipped to join United ahead of the 2020-21 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- French journalist Julien Laurens doubts Paris Saint-Germain will be able to afford Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked to PSG, City and Inter but Laurens feels the Ligue 1 champions will not be able to financially accommodate Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Atletico Madrid are poised to prise Moussa Dembele from Lyon, reports Fabrizio Romano. After Diego Costa's exit, Atletico are set to complete a loan deal with the option to buy.

- Le10Sport claims Manchester United are set to rival PSG for the signing of Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

- The Telegraph says Napoli are keen on signing Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney. The Serie A side were keen on the Scotland international before he swapped Celtic for Arsenal in 2019.

Antonio Conte defended his late substitutions after Inter were held to a 2-2 draw at Roma on Sunday.

The Nerazzurri looked set to secure three precious points in the battle between two title hopefuls at Stadio Olimpico, but Gianluca Mancini denied them with an equaliser after 86 minutes.

Lorenzo Pellegrini put Roma in front in the first half, but two goals in the space of seven minutes after the break from Milan Skriniar and Achraf Hakimi gave Inter a deserved lead.

Conte withdrew Hakimi, Lautaro Martínez and Arturo Vidal before Mancini struck in the closing stages, and the Inter boss explained why he made those changes following a result which leaves second-placed Inter three points behind leaders Milan.

He said: "Vidal asked to be replaced due to injury, Lautaro gave a lot in those 75 minutes, also because I asked him to lower himself next to Vidal in the non-possession phase.

"Hakimi also ran a lot and was losing important balls. This is the third game in seven days. Inter must have an important squad to aspire to something important.

"I don't see why [you should] not use players from the bench. I think that in the end the anxiety of the important result also takes over. That mentally leads you to lower yourself.

"But from the bench we asked [the players] to press high, because going deeper is not a good thing."

Conte said he was pleased with the way his players responded to a midweek defeat to Sampdoria.

Asked about Inter's second-half display, he said: "I think that we played well, in the first half too. Let's not forget that Roma are fighting for the same thing we are and are just three points behind us.

"Going away to the third-placed team in the league and playing like this means we're an organised and strong team.

"We had the chance to kill off the game but couldn't manage it and let Roma back into it late on - because we were out of energy. It's a shame because, with two minutes to go, we were beating a strong side."

Matteo Darmian was replaced by Ashley Young in the first half and Inter revealed the full-back suffered a suffered a severe contusion to his left hip bone.

Gianluca Mancini's late header rescued a 2-2 draw for Roma after fellow Serie A title contenders Inter produced a second-half fightback on Sunday.

Lorenzo Pellegrini gave Roma a first-half lead at the Stadio Olimpico but Inter roared back after the break.

Milan Skriniar deservedly equalised with a header and Achraf Hakimi put Antonio Conte's side in front seven minutes later.

Mancini stunned Inter four minutes from time, though, heading home to leave the Nerazzurri three points adrift of league leaders Milan.

 

 

RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano's long-term future appears uncertain, though there is a strong possibility he will end up in the Premier League.

The France international centre-back has emerged as one of Europe's most-promising defenders in recent seasons and is part of a Leipzig side that has conceded just 12 goals in 15 Bundesliga games this season.

Upamecano, 22, looks certain for a big-money move eventually, and although his next destination is unclear, he has plenty of admirers in England.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO RIVAL MAN UNITED FOR UPAMECANO

Chelsea are going through a difficult period as they sit ninth in the Premier League, and their options at centre-back do not appear to be entirely to Frank Lampard's liking.

While 36-year-old Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma have become his preferred pairing, Lampard seems unconvinced by back-up options Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori.

The Mail on Sunday reports Chelsea have joined the list of clubs lining up for Upamecano, who reportedly has a release of around €50million (£45m) in the new contract he signed last year.

But Chelsea will not expect a free run at Upamecano – the Manchester Evening News claims Manchester United retain an interest in him, with the Red Devils' centre-back options also far from impressive in 2020-21.

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba appears to be returning to form on the evidence of his recent displays, but how much longer will he remain at Old Trafford? The Daily Star believes Mauricio Pochettino has identified him as a key target at Paris Saint-Germain. Real Madrid and Juventus have also been linked.

- Declan Rice's future continues to be subject of speculation, with the Daily Mirror reporting he favours a return to Chelsea – whom he played for at academy level – over joining Manchester United.

- Lucas Torreira could be on the move again. Arsenal loaned the Uruguayan midfielder to Atletico Madrid at the start of the season, but he has featured only six times in LaLiga. Mundo Deportivo suggests he is being lined up by Fiorentina.

- Inter could be set to further increase their contingent of former Manchester United players. The Mirror says Jesse Lingard is the latest to be targeted by the Nerazzurri, who already have Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young on their books.

- M'Bala Nzola has been one of the revelations of the season in Serie A with promoted Spezia. Napoli are said to be keen on the striker, though CalcioMercato reports Newcastle United and West Ham are monitoring the situation as well.

Antonio Conte is at a loss to understand why Inter struggle to get going in games this season as they look to get back to winning ways in Serie A.

Inter were 2-0 down to Sampdoria by half-time in their previous outing and, despite Stefan de Vrij's header in the second period, could not complete a comeback. 

With Milan losing to Juventus in midweek, Inter sit just one point behind their league-leading city rivals, though have a tough visit to third-place Roma to come on Sunday. 

Inter had more attempts, more possession and attempted more passes in the second half against Sampdoria than they did in the first – continuing a trend which has been prevalent throughout the campaign. 

Across their 16 Serie A games, Conte's side have managed 13 goals from a total of 116 attempts - of which 36 were on target - in the opening 45 minutes of proceedings.

In contrast, when looking at their second-half numbers, Inter have scored 28 times having attempted 133 shots, with 57 of those hitting the target. 

Inter have also crafted more chances and more big opportunities after the break, while their passing accuracy remains similar (86.10 per cent in the second half in contrast to 86.87 per cent in the first). 

Conte, however, is unsure as to why his team are having such issues. 

"I don't know if there is an explanation, last year it was the opposite," the Inter boss told a news conference.  

"If now the opposite is happening, I don't know why. The approach has always been the right one, even against Sampdoria, we dominated and then we went down by two goals. 

"The attitude must be considered and ours has never been wrong."

Conte also reaffirmed that there will be no business done by Inter in the January transfer window, seemingly casting doubt over whether Christian Eriksen will, as previously expected, leave the club this month. 

Inter's chiefs have confirmed that Eriksen is free to depart Inter, with the Denmark playmaker having created just six chances from open play this season, failing to register either a goal or assist during his nine league appearances. 

Asked if speculation over Eriksen's future was impacting his squad, Conte said: "I'm not talking about it, whoever wants to is free to do so. We must try to do our best on the pitch, from here until the end of the season."

Liverpool are reportedly interested in Sergio Ramos, while Real Madrid have a successor for Zinedine Zidane lined up.

Premier League champions Liverpool are linked with centre-backs due to long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

And Ramos is apparently a target.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL INTERESTED IN RAMOS

Liverpool are interested in Real Madrid defender Ramos, according to El Chiringuito.

The 34-year-old's future at Madrid is uncertain with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Also at Liverpool, Fabrizio Romano reports they are yet to open talks to sign Lille defender Sven Botman.

 

ROUND-UP

- Zidane was under pressure at Real Madrid earlier in the season, and the LaLiga giants have his replacement in mind. AS reports Raul – who is in charge of Real Madrid Castilla – is seen as the natural heir to the Frenchman.

Christian Eriksen is expected to leave Inter, but just where to remains to be seen. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants are yet to receive an offer for the midfielder, who has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

- With Diego Costa having departed, Atletico Madrid are said to be looking for another forward. The Daily Mail reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is at the top of their list, while Espanyol's Raul de Tomas and Real Betis' Loren Moron are of interest.

Manchester City are linked to Barcelona star Lionel Messi, but they may have a younger version to target. talkSPORT reports the Premier League club are plotting a move for 17-year-old Estudiantes winger Dario Sarmiento, who has been dubbed "mini Messi".

- Sergio Romero looks set to leave Manchester United. The Manchester Evening News reports the goalkeeper has bid farewell to his team-mates ahead of an expected move to Boca Juniors.

Danilo D'Ambrosio suffered a strain to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against Sampdoria on Wednesday, Inter have confirmed.

Defender D'Ambrosio was introduced as an 81st-minute substitute against Samp and was on the end of a strong challenge from Mehdi Leris deep into stoppage time.

The 32-year-old's leg appeared to buckle under the tackle and he was left in clear pain, although medical staff were able to help the player to his feet to walk off the pitch in the final moments of the 2-1 defeat – Inter's first in nine matches.

A statement on Thursday detailed the nature of the injury after medical tests.

"His condition will be reassessed next week," the Nerazzurri said.

Wednesday's match was D'Ambrosio's 11th appearance of the season, of which only four have been starts. He has scored three goals from defence but contributed to just a single clean sheet.

Manchester City reportedly believe they lead the race for Lionel Messi if the star leaves Barcelona.

Messi, 33, is out of contract at Barca at the end of the season and is linked with a move from the LaLiga giants.

The forward stayed at Camp Nou after sensationally requesting a transfer ahead of 2020-21, but it may have just delayed his exit.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD MESSI RACE IF STAR LEAVES

Manchester City believe they lead the race for Messi if he leaves Barcelona, according to The Telegraph.

City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter have been most strongly linked with a move for Messi, who is expected to make a decision on his future at the end of the campaign.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 20 games in all competitions this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Gareth Bale injured, his chances of a longer stay at Tottenham appear slim. AS reports Real Madrid are expecting the attacker to return to the club at the end of his loan spell at the conclusion of the campaign, and that would hurt their chances of signing Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe with Bale contracted until 2022.

- Georginio Wijnaldum's future is no closer to being sorted. Sky Sports reports the midfielder and Liverpool have reached a stalemate over a new contract. Wijnaldum's deal expires at the end of the season and the Netherlands international has been linked with a move to Barcelona.

- Starring at Tottenham this season, Son Heung-min could be set for a new deal. The Telegraph reports Spurs are confident the forward, who is contracted until 2023, will re-sign.

- Mesut Ozil could finally be set to leave Arsenal. DHA reports the playmaker has agreed to a three-and-a-half-year deal with Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

- With Moise Kean impressing on loan at Paris Saint-Germain, Everton are expecting an offer for the forward, according to the Liverpool Echo. Kean has 10 goals in 17 matches for PSG this season.

- Diego Alonso is under pressure at the helm of Inter Miami, and Sky Sports reports the MLS side have approached Phil Neville, who is the coach of England's women's team, to take over.

Antonio Conte felt Inter were hard done by as their Scudetto ambitions suffered a blow with a 2-1 defeat at Sampdoria. 

Alexis Sanchez missed a first-half penalty before Antonio Candreva converted from the spot for the hosts at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. 

Keita Balde doubled Sampdoria's advantage in the 38th minute and, although Stefan de Vrij reduced the deficit and Romelu Lukaku - short of match fitness - came off the bench, Inter were unable to pull level. 

Milan host champions Juventus in a mouth-watering San Siro clash later on Wednesday, where victory would increase the Rossoneri's advantage over Inter at the summit to four points. 

The result halted an 11-match unbeaten run for Conte's men and he refused to be too harsh on his players after they failed to overcome a chastening first half. 

"We found ourselves going from the missed penalty to having a penalty against us. There was this one-two from Sampdoria that clearly created some difficulties for us," he told reporters. 

"At the same time, the team was doing well, in the first few minutes they created a lot of scoring situations. Sometimes you lose games you deserve to lose, other times there are situations where you can score and you don't." 

Despite those missed chances and struggles in attack for Lautaro Martinez, Conte refused to blame Lukaku's recuperation from a thigh strain for Inter falling short.

"It wasn't the first time we played without Romelu, we know that he is a player with certain qualities, but he wasn't 100 per cent and you saw it when he came on," he said. 

"Sorry because I think we deserved something more." 

Christian Eriksen was also introduced from the bench, despite being told he can leave Inter this month. 

"I always try to exploit the players according to the situations that arise and I am at the club's complete disposal on every decision," Conte explained. 

"I get to work, as I have always done since I have been at Inter, but every decision will always be shared." 

Inter return to action with a crunch clash against third-placed Roma on Sunday.

Antonio Candreva and Keita Balde were on target against their former club as Inter's eight-match winning run in Serie A ground to a halt in a 2-1 defeat at Sampdoria.

The Nerazzurri were aiming to go top, at least temporarily, and Alexis Sanchez saw an early penalty saved at the Luigi Ferraris.

Another VAR check led to Candreva opening the scoring from the spot and Keita – on loan at Sampdoria from Monaco – doubled the hosts' lead in an enthralling first half.

Stefan de Vrij finally headed wasteful Inter onto the scoreboard after 65 minutes, but Antonio Conte's side failed to find and a leveller and remain second, one point adrift of Milan.

In a breathless opening, Emil Audero foiled Ashley Young's whipped shot and Milan Skriniar skewed wide from the same corner that saw Morten Thorsby pinged for handball after VAR's intervention.

Audero kept out Sanchez's penalty and Young smashed the rebound against the post, while Lorenzo Tonelli's looping header for Sampdoria hit the crossbar soon after.

Candreva succeeded where Sanchez failed after 23 minutes, firing into the left of the goal after VAR spotted Nicolo Barella had handled a Tonelli header.

Things worsened for Inter when Keita swept home Mikkel Damsgaard's low right-wing centre seven minutes before the break.

Sanchez was denied by Audero again and Lautaro Martinez wastefully headed wide, before the former followed suit in similar style after the break.

Inter finally responded when De Vrij headed home Marcelo Brozovic's corner with 25 minutes left and substitute Romelu Lukaku saw a powerful downward header brilliantly stopped by Audero.

Ivan Perisic was twice off target with headers either side of Martinez testing Audero at his near post but Inter were frustrated in their endeavours.

Manchester City have reportedly annoyed Kevin De Bruyne with their contract offer amid interest in Lionel Messi.

De Bruyne, 29, has been expected to sign a new deal with the Premier League giants, with his contract expiring in 2023.

But with Messi coming out of contract at season's end, City's offer to De Bruyne has seemingly drawn questions.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY ANNOY DE BRUYNE AMID MESSI INTEREST

Manchester City have annoyed De Bruyne with their contract offer, according to The Athletic.

The report says the offer is less than De Bruyne is currently on because of potentially signing Messi. However, the Belgium international is still expected to re-sign.

City have been strongly linked to Messi, who could leave Barcelona at the end of the campaign when is contract is due to expire.

The Barcelona captain has insisted he will not make a decision on his future until the season's conclusion.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also coming out of contract is Bayern Munich star David Alaba. The Guardian reports Liverpool are interested in signing the defender, but Real Madrid lead the race.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ramos will not accept a one-year deal and the defender and LaLiga champions are distant in their bid to reach an agreement, according to Marca. The Manchester Evening News reports City are not interested in Ramos.

Antoine Griezmann is still yet to find his best form for Barcelona, but Sport reports the Blaugrana are not considering selling the forward.

Mesut Ozil could be set to leave Arsenal. Football.London reports the playmaker, who comes out of contract in June, is in negotiations with MLS franchise DC United.

- Linked with Juventus and InterOlivier Giroud is set to stay at Chelsea, according to Goal. They also claim Juve are considering Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella as an alternative, while Milan look set to keep hold of star midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu.

Antonio Conte called on Arturo Vidal to improve after conceding a penalty that gave Inter brief concern in their 6-2 win over Crotone.

The Nerazzurri were ultimately comfortable victors at San Siro on Sunday as Lautaro Martinez scored their first perfect hat-trick since Mauro Icardi's against Atalanta in March 2017.

However, Inter had been level at 2-2 at half-time following Vidal's needless error.

After Martinez's first effort and a Luca Marrone own goal turned the match around following Niccolo Zanellato's Crotone opener, Vidal charged towards Arkadiusz Reca and stepped on his foot in the area to concede a penalty, which Vladimir Golemic converted.

Inter coach Conte was worried at that stage the setback might affect his side, looking to win an eighth successive league match for the first time since 2008.

But Vidal was replaced at the interval and an assured second-half display saw Martinez score twice more either side of an excellent Romelu Lukaku effort, before Achraf Hakimi completed the scoring.

Conte told Sky Sport Italia: "We did well to turn it around, then the naivety on the penalty could have created anxiety and nervousness.

"But we did well to get back on track and bring home another win.

"We had good answers today, also because we had started in the right way. Then there was this corner where they surprised us [for Zanellato's goal]."

The penalty was the only foul Vidal committed before his premature withdrawal, but he won just two of his five duels and Conte was not impressed.

"Arturo has important margins for improvement," Conte said. "He definitely needs to work. Keep your head down and keep working.

"Nobody is guaranteed a place here and he has to prove he deserves to play. He must do much better than what he is doing.

"From what we've seen so far, there are too many ups and downs, and we can't afford them. He knows this, he knows he has to train harder.

"Maybe when you play in big teams, sometimes this aspect takes a back seat. Here instead you have to raise the level, he knows that. We'll give him time."

Far more impressive was Lukaku, who created the first Inter goal for Martinez, had a hand in the next two and then scored the fourth before he hobbled off with an injury.

Having seen his outstanding number nine net his 35th goal in his 50th Serie A game, Conte will hope he does not have to face a spell without the striker.

Inter are in action again as soon as Wednesday, facing Sampdoria, and the coach was waiting to hear more on Lukaku's problem.

"He told me he had a small quadriceps strain," Conte said. "We'll see tomorrow if he's at risk for the Sampdoria game.

"We took him off straight away. I don't think it's anything serious."

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