Inter striker Romelu Lukaku hit out at officials for allowing Serie A to continue until a player tested positive for coronavirus, insisting health is paramount.

The 2019-20 Serie A season has been suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 53,100 people worldwide.

Juventus defender Daniele Rugani was listed as the first Serie A player to contract coronavirus following the club's 2-0 win over Inter behind closed doors on March 8.

With Italy hit hardest by the virus – more than 13,910 deaths – Belgium star Lukaku questioned why the league was not postponed sooner.

"Health comes first. Why should we play if there are people in the world who are risking their lives?" Lukaku said in an interview with Thierry Henry via Puma's Instagram.

"Why was it only necessary for a player to test positive in order for football to stop? It's not normal.

"I will admit that I do miss football, but now the most important thing is people's health. Everything else comes secondary to that."

Amid the hiatus, Lukaku told Henry: "What I miss most is competing with opponents, being in full stadiums and feeling the support from the fans.

"I am using this time to analyse my performances and indeed, more generally, everything I have done in the last six months. You can always improve in football."

Romelu Lukaku might have been playing for Juventus rather than Inter had the Bianconeri sold Paulo Dybala to Manchester United, according to the Belgium international's agent.

Lukaku left United for Inter in a €65million deal in August and went on to score 17 Serie A goals before the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the former Chelsea and Everton striker could have instead been turning out for title rivals Juve this term.

Lukaku's agent Federico Pastorello claims Dybala's departure would have made room for the 26-year-old in Turin.

Dybala was linked with both United and Tottenham but instead stayed at Juve, netting seven times in the league so far in 2019-20 - including strikes in a pair of precious victories over Inter.

Pastorello told Sky Sport Italia: "If Lukaku is wearing the Inter shirt today, it's only because of Paulo Dybala's failure to join Manchester United."

However, Lukaku's representative also suggested the player felt a warmer welcome at Inter than he would have expected with Juve.

"Romelu wanted to leave the Premier League and move to a club where he felt loved," Pastorello said.

"He immediately noticed the affection and warmth of the Inter fans compared to those of Juve, and this made the difference.

"Lukaku's arrival at Juve would have pleased many fans, but for Inter his engagement instead represented a turning point after the arrival of Antonio Conte, the intention to try to start a winning cycle.

"He perceived this immediately, even on social media. He felt wanted at Inter. Conte put a lot of pressure on the club to have the player."

Romelu Lukaku has acknowledged he is finding it tough living in self-isolation after Italy was put into lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Serie A has been put on hold until April 3 at the earliest due to the continued spread of the respiratory disease, which has resulted in almost 3,500 deaths in Italy.

Lukaku has been prevented from seeing his son, mother and brother since quarantining last week and said the experience has left him feeling humbled.

"You have to be very careful because you might touch somebody and they might have the virus," he said in an interview on Ian Wright's YouTube channel.

"My mum has diabetes and they have a higher risk to get into trouble when they get it. So I cannot even go home and touch her. 

"My mum is not even going out now. She's just going in the backyard or late at night she does her walk and then she comes back.

"I'm with my physio now. They bring me food every time as I'm on a strict diet. Every day around 12pm they send somebody from the training ground to give us the food so we keep our strict diet. I'm still on my fish and my veggies."

Lukaku, who has scored 23 goals in 35 outings for Inter this term, added: "I can't go outside, I can't train. It's been nine days. They got me a bike because the players live in the city centre in small apartments. 

"I didn't have space so in a group chat they said to the players 'who doesn't have a bike or a treadmill at the house?'. So there were loads of players like 'me, me ,me, me me'. Two hours later they brought every player a bike.

"I miss the regular life. Being with my mum and my son. Even being with my brother and people outside.

"I'm thinking about everybody. It is bad. You can have no more contact with a human being. I miss training and playing games in front of fans. Now you start appreciating what you have."

Romelu Lukaku was "really close" to joining Juventus last year, but the chance to work with Antonio Conte proved pivotal in his decision to sign for Inter.

The Belgium international ended a mixed two-year spell with Manchester United by joining Inter for a reported €80million (£74m) fee in August 2019.

Lukaku has excelled in his debut campaign in Italy, scoring 23 goals in 35 outings in all competitions.

However, the 26-year-old has revealed he almost joined one of Inter's fiercest rivals.

"I was close, really close [to joining Juve], but my mind was always set on Inter and the manager," Lukaku said in an interview on Ian Wright's YouTube channel.

"As a kid I looked up to Adriano, Ronaldo and [Christian] Vieri. 

"Obviously when Inter came – and the manager Conte wanted me at Chelsea and Juve as well – I wanted to go there and see what it was like, keep my head down and work."

Lukaku has already bettered his goals tally from the whole of his final season at United, where he fell out of favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

"One bad year can happen to everybody, and I was done [at United]," Lukaku, who believes he made the right decision in leaving Old Trafford, added. "It was a difficult situation.

"I had to make a decision over going somewhere where I can learn other aspects of my game and work with somebody that wanted me as well.

"Ole wanted me to stay but I told him it was over. I didn't have the energy. All credit to him because he's been a man and he helped me make the move away."

United have steadily improved in Solskjaer's first full campaign in charge following the January signings of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo, the latter arriving on an initial loan.

"They are going the right way because they are bringing in the right players," Lukaku said. "Ole is doing a good job and the results are good. 

"I wish them nothing but the best. As a club they gave me a platform that I had never seen in my life."

Juventus returned to the top of Serie A after goals from Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala earned them a 2-0 Derby D'Italia victory over Inter at an empty Allianz Stadium.

Maurizio Sarri's side were clinical in a surreal atmosphere – supporters have been barred from attending matches until April 3 amid coronavirus precautions – securing a third consecutive league win after Ramsey netted for the second game running, while substitute Dybala doubled the hosts lead with a scintillating strike.

Cristiano Ronaldo failed to find the net for the first time in 12 league matches on a night when he could have set a new Serie A record goalscoring streak, the Portugal star missing two excellent late chances.

But there was no hiding Sarri's satisfaction as his charges bounced back from their Champions League defeat to Lyon with a deserved victory against one of their title rivals, who are now nine points behind, although Antonio Conte's side have a game in hand.

Samir Handanovic, on his return from a hairline fracture of his finger, made a smart reaction save to keep out Matthijs de Ligt's close-range header after seven minutes, and Ronaldo then fired a shot into his midriff from 20 yards.

Juve's strong start continued, with Blaise Matuidi's angled drive forcing Handanovic into a low, diving stop, while Inter were restricted to shots over the crossbar from distance by Nicolo Barella and Antonio Candreva.

Marcelo Brozovic gave the champions their first real scare when he struck a curling effort towards goal from outside the box that Wojciech Szczesny parried away, ensuring the sides went in level at the interval.

Juve's breakthrough came nine minutes after the restart when Alex Sandro played Matuidi into the box and his cross was blocked by Alessandro Bastoni, only for Ramsey to pounce on the loose ball and fire it in off Stefan de Vrij's leg from six yards.

Dybala replaced Douglas Costa five minutes later and soon made his mark on the game, immaculately trapping a long pass before exchanging a one-two with Ramsey,  turning Ashley Young inside the box and firing into the corner of the net with the outside of his left foot.

Conte threw on Christian Eriksen as Inter sought a way back into the game and he sent a rising drive narrowly over Szczesny's crossbar, but the visitors' evening took another turn for the worse when Daniele Padelli was sent off from the bench following Brozovic's foul on Matuidi.

Ronaldo fired two late shots narrowly wide of the target as he just missed out on claiming another piece of history, but the night nonetheless belonged to Juve.

 

What does it mean? Inter cut adrift

The Nerazzurri are now playing catch-up in a big way, with Conte's side failing to show the kind of form that made them front-runners in the title race before the turn of the year.

Juventus, meanwhile, are playing some of their most exciting football of the campaign and will feel confident about going toe-to-toe with Lazio – a point behind – for the Scudetto.

Ramsey finding his feet

This was only Ramsey's ninth league start of the season but – having also netted against SPAL – he more than justified his place, scoring the opener, assisting the second, and frequently putting Sarri's men on the front foot with his vision and quick thinking.

Higuain's drought continues

Without a Serie A goal since January 6, Gonzalo Higuain was largely a bystander despite Juve spending long spells camped in and around Inter's box, with Ronaldo so often the preferred passing option.

What's next?

Inter are at home to Getafe in the Europa League on Thursday ahead of their clash with Sassuolo three days later, while Juventus travel to Bologna in Serie A on Friday, with Lyon visiting in the Champions League after that.

Inter recovered from a goal down to beat Ludogorets 2-1 at an empty San Siro and seal a 4-1 aggregate victory in Thursday's Europa League last-32 tie.

Antonio Conte's men took a two-goal lead into the second leg, which was played behind closed doors due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

Cauly profited from some sloppy defending to halve the deficit with 26 minutes played, but Cristiano Biraghi squeezed in a deflected effort from an angle after being played in by Eriksen to level things up on the night.

Romelu Lukaku edged the Italian club ahead with a strange goal just before half-time and competition favourites Inter saw things through to book a place in Friday's last-16 draw.

Lukaku, who had also scored a late penalty in last week's first leg after Christian Eriksen's opener, failed to beat Plamen Iliev from a one-on-one five minutes into this return match. 

Bulgarian champions Ludogorets gave themselves some hope when Cauly held off Diego Godin and fired past Daniele Padelli at his neat post via the underside of the crossbar.

But Inter restored their two-goal aggregate margin 188 seconds later as Biraghi's drilled effort from the left went in via a deflection off visiting defender Georgi Terziev.

Lukaku then atoned for his earlier miss by scoring a bizarre fourth goal of the tie for Inter, with the ball ricocheting off his body while on the floor after his initial header was saved.

Alexis Sanchez played a big part in that goal and struck the frame of the goal with a 25-yard drive early in the second half.

Lukaku was also denied by a mixture of Iliev and the post five minutes later but, a near-miss from substitute Mavis Tchibota aside, Inter had little trouble in seeing out a second victory on the bounce ahead of Sunday's trip to Juventus.

 

What does it mean? Inter regain some momentum

Successive wins against Ludogorets, either side of Sunday's postponed league clash with Sampdoria, has given Inter some much-needed momentum after back-to-back losses.

This weekend's trip to Juventus has officially been given the go ahead and Conte's men know that defeat in Turin could kill off their Scudetto title hopes, making it a truly huge game.

Lukaku's fine form continues

Lukaku's goal may have been fortunate, but he linked up well with Sanchez in the build-up and now has 23 for the season in all competitions.

The Belgium international joins Samuel Eto'o as the only Inter players to have scored at least two goals in four different competitions in a single season, excluding qualifiers.

Calamity defending for Ludogorets' opener

Godin claimed he was shoved off the ball by Cauly for the visitors' goal, but the VAR officials agreed with the referee's assessment and let it stand.

Not only was the veteran centre-back caught out, captain Andrea Ranocchia also failed to close down the Ludogorets goal-scorer and Padelli was easily beaten at his near post.

What's next?

Inter travel to Serie A leaders Juventus on Sunday in another behind-closed-doors match, while Ludogorets head to Arda the same day as they close in on a ninth successive Bulgarian First League title.

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 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."

Romelu Lukaku has made quite the impact in Serie A this season but he comes up against one of Europe's most in-form strikers in Ciro Immobile when Inter visit Lazio on Sunday.

Lazio have been one of the surprise packages in Italy's top flight this term and are just one point adrift of table-topping Inter ahead of a huge clash at Stadio Olimpico.

The performances of Immobile and Lukaku could well be crucial in determining the outcome of a blockbuster encounter between two teams aiming to end Juventus' stranglehold of Serie A.

With help of Opta data, we look at how the two compare this season.


IMMOBILE ON FIRE IN FRONT OF GOAL

Lukaku said "there's a new king in town" after helping Inter down Milan in the derby last weekend, and he has been an undoubted success during his maiden campaign at Inter. Thus far he has 17 goals in 23 Serie A appearances with an impressive minutes-to-goal average of 116.

But Immobile is Lazio's leading light, scoring 25 times in 23 league games, giving him an impressive average of a goal every 77 minutes in the top flight.

The Lazio man has also taken more shots (including blocked efforts), registering 93 to Lukaku's tally 68, with 46 on target compared to 35 for the Belgium striker.

Lukaku has scored nine and missed 10 'big chances', with Immobile's numbers reading 15 and 12 in that department. The Italian has a slightly better shot conversion rate (including blocks) of 27 per cent to 25.


CIRO THE CREATOR? LUKAKU UP FOR THE BATTLE

Lukaku's strengths are not just his goalscoring prowess but his ability to bring team-mates in to play.

Immobile is no slouch in terms of those attributes, though, and his six assists and 41 chances created outstrip what Lukaku (two and 34 in the respective categories) has managed this season.

Where Lukaku has outperformed Immobile is the number of duels won, with his 104 some way clear of Immobile's 65. Unsurprisingly, his duel success rate of 44.07 per cent is better than the Lazio forward's 38.69.

In terms of recoveries, Immobile has made 59 to Lukaku's 44.


THE STATS

- Immobile has failed to score in his past two league games; he has not gone three without a goal since last May.

- After scoring twice in his first three matches against Inter, Immobile has failed to net in the following eight against the Nerazzurri.

- Lukaku has the most away goals in the top five European leagues this season with 12, while Immobile is the highest scorer in home fixtures with 15 (the same total as Cristiano Ronaldo).

- Indeed, Lukaku's tally of 12 away goals is already the joint-best for a debut Serie A campaign. Andriy Shevchenko (1999-2000) and Antonio Vojak (1929-30) also managed as many on the road in their maiden seasons.

Romelu Lukaku said Inter demonstrated their never-say-die mentality after the Serie A title hopefuls produced a stunning comeback to beat Milan 4-2 in the Derby della Madonnina.

Inter trailed 2-0 at half-time but produced a memorable fightback to leapfrog defending champions Juventus atop the table in the race for the Scudetto.

Goals from Marcelo Brozovic, Matias Vecino, Stefan de Vrij and Romelu Lukaku ensured Milan was painted blue in honour of the Nerazzurri as the Rossoneri collapsed at San Siro.

"We did really well during the second half. They played well during the first half, as we left them too much space and we struggled," Lukaku, who netted his 17th league goal of the season to complete the scoring in stoppage time, told Sky Sport Italia.

"However, we came out well after the interval. We completed the comeback and we're delighted with the win. I think that everyone has seen this team's mentality, we never give up and we're always looking to win.

"I'm here to win and my only aim is to help the team get results. I want to thank all of the fans, my team-mates, Mister [Antonio] Conte and all of his backroom staff for the support that they're giving me."

Inter were outplayed in the first half before rallying in the second 45 minutes and De Vrij told Inter TV: "The coach made us understand what he wanted and where to improve during the break, fortunately we scored two goals in quick succession and we were back in the game. We won.

"The goals were incredible feelings and memories that will last forever. Winning is a unique feeling. It's tight in the table so we have to continue like this and win our games. We'll start focusing on Napoli now because it won't be an easy game on Wednesday."

Antonio Conte admitted Inter were at risk of "a hammering" before they came from two goals down to beat Milan 4-2 in the Derby della Madonnina and go top of the Serie A table.

Goals from Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic put Milan two ahead at half-time, but quickfire strikes from Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino levelled the contest inside eight minutes of the restart.

Stefan de Vrij gave Inter the lead before Romelu Lukaku capped an unforgettable evening for the Nerazzurri with a stoppage-time goal, and Conte was full of praise for his gutsy side's comeback.

"It was a special night, that's for sure," Conte told Sky Sport Italia. "The first half saw us in real difficulty, perhaps more than we've ever been this season, and there was the risk of a hammering.

"Instead, we did well to get the balance back, to understand where we had to improve, to have faith in what we were doing and the credit goes to these lads.

"Aside from the result, I am happy to see them resist under blows and turn it around, as that means they are preparing for something truly important.

"It's still very early to talk about something we can for now dream of. We can have a dream."

Despite Inter's second-half transformation, Conte had little to say about his half-time team-talk and instead claimed his share of responsibility for a calamitous first-half display.

Inter face Napoli in their Coppa Italia semi-final first leg on Wednesday before taking on fellow title-chasers Lazio in Serie A on Sunday, and Conte looked ahead to a crucial run of games.

"It's going to be a very intense period for us coming up and, after that, I think we'll have a better idea of our potential and our real capabilities," said the Inter boss.

"We can't achieve everything from one day to the next, but we are building. These lads proved they have great strength and guts today.

"I didn't need to talk much at half-time. I think in difficult situations, you have to be very clear and take responsibility. I had a large share of the responsibility for the fact we were losing 2-0 at half-time.

"We stayed together, from start to finish, and found our way out of a tough situation. We have to keep this evening in mind, as it will help us be a team in future and deal with similar difficulties."

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.

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.

Serie A strikers Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile lead the line in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week.

Lukaku and Immobile are two of the form front men in European football, and the duo have earned recognition following their latest goalscoring exploits.

Inter striker Lukaku grabbed both goals in a 2-0 away win at Udinese on Sunday.

And Immobile matched that haul as Lazio thrashed SPAL 5-1, the Italy international's brace taking his 2019-20 league tally to 25 already.

The duo are far from the only big names in this week's selection, however, with Roberto Firmino, Jadon Sancho and Hugo Lloris also among the new in-form cards.

Find the full squad below.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) - 89

CB: Matthijs de Ligt (Piemonte Calcio/Juventus) - 87

LB: Alex Telles (Porto) - 87

CB: Yerry Mina (Everton) - 84

CM: Daniel Parejo (Valencia) - 88

RM: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain) - 88

CAM: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) - 87

CM: Santi Cazorla (Villarreal) - 86

CF: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) - 88

ST: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) - 90

ST: Romelu Lukaku (Inter) - 88

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Steve Mandanda (Marseille) - 83

CB: Kaan Ayhan (Fortuna Dusseldorf) - 81

RM: Robert Snodgrass (West Ham) - 81

ST: Francesco Caputo (Sassuolo) - 84

RW: Daniel Ginczek (Wolfsburg) - 82

ST: Kasper Dolberg (Nice) - 81

LW: Oussama Idrissi (AZ) - 81

RESERVES

CM: Alexandru Maxim (Gaziantep) - 79

CM: Alexandru Cicaldau (Universitatea Craiova) - 78

LM: Ahmet Engin (Duisburg) - 76

LM: Nathan Thomas (Carlisle United) - 74

LW: Said Benrahma (Brentford) - 80

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."

Page 1 of 13
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.