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."

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.

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku does not intend to leave a response to racism in football to the authorities, citing players' protests in the Eredivisie as an example for Serie A stars.

A number of incidents of racist abuse in stadiums have marred Italian football in recent seasons, with Lukaku, Mario Balotelli and Miralem Pjanic among the targets.

Lukaku has repeatedly been outspoken on the issue, and the Belgium international is keen for players to lead a riposte to discrimination.

Eredivisie matches were paused for a minute in November in protest after Excelsior winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira was subjected to abuse at Den Bosch, giving Lukaku food for thought.

"For me, Italy is a beautiful country to live in," the former Manchester United man told Sky Sports.

"Italy has such a potential to be a great league like it used to, but we have to work together to keep those ignorant people out of the stadium.

"It happened in Holland as well, when I watched a game in the second division.

"I spoke to the guy that it happened to where they stopped the games for one minute, I spoke to the guy and said, 'You did well to walk off the pitch and to celebrate in front of those ignorant people'.

"I think we need to take things into our own hands. I don't think we should leave it to the federations.

"Holland did a great job, they did a fantastic job with all of their players. Sometimes in other countries we, as players, have to take matters into our own hands."

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.”

Romelu Lukaku said leaving Manchester United for Inter was his best option after the star forward continued his red-hot form with a brace in the Coppa Italia.

Lukaku scored twice in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over Cagliari to take his season tally to 18 goals across all competitions for Inter since his club-record arrival at the start of the campaign.

The Belgium international opened the scoring after just 21 seconds, while he also headed in Inter's third in the second half at San Siro, where the Nerazzurri advanced to the quarter-finals.

"I must thank my team-mates, the coach, the backroom staff and the fans. Everyone has helped me from day one," Lukaku, who has scored six goals in his last four games, told Rai.

"Inter were my best option. I can grow here and I can give my contribution. My role is to help the team in any way and I know that the fans like this. I must keep this up.

"Obviously, scoring is the objective, however, I'm not just thinking about myself, but also the team. I'm here to achieve this and I hope to win something. However, for now, I'm only focused on Lecce."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte, who wanted to sign Lukaku during his time at Chelsea before finally getting his man this season, said: "You know that I don't like to talk too much about individuals. Romelu is proving his worth and he can still keep improving."

On the team following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Atalanta, which saw Inter drop two points behind Serie A champions Juventus in the race for the Scudetto, Conte added: "I'm really pleased, it was a great response from the lads. Even from those who've played less of late and those who were coming back from injury.

"I'm happy for [Nicolo] Barella, who is recovering after his injury and he was one of our starters today, as was [Alexis] Sanchez. He is an important player for us and slowly he'll get back to his best. I'm also pleased for Borja Valero, who proved himself once again today, as well as [Valentino] Lazaro, [Federico] Dimarco and [Andrea] Ranocchia, who haven't had many chances so far but all played really well. 

"There's real harmony among this group, they are a great bunch of lads that want to do well. I'm really pleased to be working with them. We rounded off an important first half of the season in the league, picking up 46 points despite our difficulties and they have now left us in a strong position.

"The second half of the campaign won't be easy but we've started on our journey and we want to keep growing, maintaining the right amount of patience to bring everything together."

Romelu Lukaku scored a double to guide Inter into the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia as they breezed to a 4-1 win over Cagliari.

Lukaku is enjoying an excellent first season with the Nerazzurri following his move from Manchester United and went into Tuesday's clash at San Siro with 16 goals in 24 games in all competitions.

He added to that tally with a goal in each half against a Cagliari side an impressive sixth in Serie A despite a poor run of form, needing only 21 seconds to open the scoring after Christian Oliva inadvertently played him through on goal.

His goals were sandwiched by a tap-in from Borja Valero and Antonio Conte's Serie A challengers were rarely threatened until Oliva atoned for his earlier error with an emphatically taken consolation.

Andrea Ranocchia restored Inter's three-goal lead late on and they will now switch focus back to an engrossing title battle with Juventus.

Lukaku was ruthless in punishing Oliva's error as he calmly slotted into the bottom-right corner and he would have had a second if not for a questionable offside decision, the Belgium striker adjudged to have strayed as he turned home a near-post cross in the 11th minute.

The former United man was unable to connect with Nicolo Barella's right-wing cross, but it mattered not as the delivery was bundled in by Valero at the second attempt.

Cagliari continued to afford Lukaku opportunities and four minutes into the second half he steered a difficult header into the net from another superb Barella ball into the box.

Radja Nainggolan, on loan at Cagliari from Inter, struck the post with a vicious drive, before Oliva beat Samir Handanovic with a rasping finish from Alberto Cerri's backheel lay-off.

However, poor marking at a corner allowed Ranocchia to make absolutely sure of victory as he converted from substitute Cristiano Biraghi's set-piece 10 minutes from time.

 

What does it mean? Inter take step towards silverware

Inter have not lifted a trophy since winning this competition in 2011, but this was a performance of a side primed to end that drought. Conte's side were in control from the start and never lost their grip on the contest. Atalanta or Fiorentina will be up next.

Ruthless Romelu

Lukaku has adapted brilliantly to Italian football and he provided another demonstration of his significant goalscoring prowess with a clinical display.

No case for Cagliari defence

Oliva's howler meant they were on the back foot from the off, but Cagliari's defending, particularly in the first half, left a lot to be desired and on another day Inter would have won by a wider margin.

What's next?

Inter visit Lecce in Serie A on Sunday, when Cagliari are away at Brescia. These two sides meet again at the same venue in the league a week later.

Antonio Conte hit back at critics of Inter and star forward Romelu Lukaku after his high-flying side stayed level on points with Juventus atop Serie A.

Lukaku scored twice as Inter defeated Napoli 3-1 away from home on Monday, following Juve's 4-0 rout of Cagliari earlier in the day.

After celebrating his 100th Serie A victory as a coach, Conte responded to comments about Inter's counter-attacking strength.

"I don't think Inter defended and went on the counter, as we tried to press Napoli right on the edge of their own area for the whole game," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"I hear people always saying we play counter-attacking football, but this is a side that knows what it has to do every time it is in possession.

"We play knowing full well everything we have to do at any moment of the match. Fortunately, our opponents respect us more than the media seem to. People say we win away because we defend deep and go on the counter, but that is certainly not our approach."

Inter's record signing Lukaku took his Serie A tally to 14 goals this season thanks to his brace at the San Paolo, where Lautaro Martinez was also on target.

Lukaku has starred since arriving from Manchester United, where he only managed 12 Premier League goals in 32 appearances last season.

"I heard people say Lukaku was a donkey. I heard all sorts not even that long ago! It's easy to speak highly of Lukaku now, but if we look back to a few weeks ago…" Conte said.

"I always said Romelu was a rough diamond that needed work to smooth him out. Lautaro Martinez is the same. These lads are 26 and 22 years old, they are still young.

"I wanted Romelu very strongly when I was at Chelsea, even back at Juventus. I wanted him, now I can get to work on polishing the diamond."

Romelu Lukaku scored a double as Inter comfortably beat Napoli 3-1 for their first Serie A win at the San Paolo in just over 22 years.

Inter were on Monday briefly replaced at the top of the league by Juventus, who downed Cagliari 4-0, but regained their spot at the summit with an impressive triumph.

Lukaku struck twice in the first half, the second coming thanks to a blunder from Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret, before Arkadiusz Milik halved the deficit in the 39th minute.

Lautaro Martinez made sure of the result in the second half, with the victory Antonio Conte's 100th as a coach in Serie A.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo was punished for an unfortunate slip in the 14th minute, as Lukaku latched onto the loose ball and raced forward to fire in off the left post.

Meret did well to deny Matias Vecino and Martinez but he undid his good work in the 33rd minute when he diverted Lukaku's powerful drive from 18 yards between his own legs and in.

Napoli stayed positive and, after Samir Handanovic just about kept out Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon squared Piotr Zielinski's diagonal delivery into the six-yard box for Milik to tap home before the break.

The tempo dropped off in the second half but Inter again made Napoli pay for an error. Kostas Manolas was unable to clear Vecino's right-wing delivery and instead teed up Martinez to stab home with 62 minutes played.

Tempers flared when Fabian Ruiz forcefully kicked the ball into the Inter dugout, with Sebastiano Esposito and Antonio Conte going into the book for their reactions.

Insigne clipped the crossbar with a 20-yard free-kick as Napoli proved unable to spark a comeback.

Martinez almost doubled his tally in stoppage time but, after rounding Meret, was dispossessed by Di Lorenzo, who looked fortunate not to concede a penalty for his challenge.

 

What does it mean? Conte brings up his ton

Conte's first win as a Serie A coach came in October 2009 while in charge of Atalanta and he reached 100 victories in 145 matches. That is the quickest of any boss to have made their debut in the division from 1994-95 onwards. He will hope to keep up the impressive pace and lead Inter to their first Scudetto since 2010.

Lukaku looking sharp

Lukaku has been prolific away from home this season and now has 10 goals in his nine appearances on the road. He was a threat from the off and thoroughly deserved his brace.

A demerit for Napoli's keeper

After making decent saves from Vecino and Martinez, Meret committed a howler when he let Lukaku's stinging shot squirm through him to hand Inter a 2-0 lead.

What's next?

Inter will be without Milan Skriniar after he was shown a fifth yellow card of the season when they entertain Atalanta at San Siro on Saturday, while Napoli head to Lazio the same day.

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