Rodrigo De Paul claims Argentina were subjected to some rough off-field treatment from hosts Chile before their World Cup qualifier.

The midfielder said the Albiceleste were prevented from using the bathroom on arrival, had no air conditioning or water and were made to suffer the sound of sirens during their stay in Calama. 

It did not appear to derail the visitors, already safely through to Qatar 2022, as they secured a 2-1 win despite the COVID-enforced absences of Lionel Messi and coach Lionel Scaloni.

"They didn't even let us go to the bathroom when we got off the plane," De Paul told reporters. "They cut off our air conditioners, we had no water and they made sirens sound throughout the stay.

"I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but, as an Argentine, every team that comes to my country, we have to make them feel as comfortable as possible and we have to win on the playing field where it belongs."

Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez netted first-half goals around Ben Brereton-Diaz's looping header as Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 27 games.

The victory improves second-placed Argentina's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign to 32 points from 14 games, while Chile are battling to reach Qatar 2022.

After a solid if unspectacular showing, assistant coach Walter Samuel was pleased to see how well the team coped despite being without talisman Messi.

"Sure there are things to improve, but the team showed character in a difficult environment," he said.

"Messi is the leader of this team, but we were able to do very well without him. We lacked other guys because of Covid that we wanted to be there, but the team made a great effort and I want to thank them for that.

"The character of the boys is moving. All the players start from scratch and want to earn a place in the World Cup. There is healthy competition here."

Already-qualified Argentina flexed their muscle without Lionel Messi with a 2-1 away win over Chile leaving their 2022 World Cup qualification hopes at major risk on Thursday.

Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez netted first-half goals around Ben Brereton-Diaz's looping header as Albiceleste extended their unbeaten run to 27 games.

The victory improves second-placed Argentina's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign to 32 points from 14 games, while Chile are battling to reach Qatar 2022.

La Roja, who suffered their second straight home defeat, have 16 points from 15 games and are seventh in the standings, three points behind Uruguay in the fourth automatic qualification spot after they won 1-0 in Paraguay.

Paris Saint-Germain winger Di Maria silenced the home Calama crowd in the ninth minute when he curled home a trademark left-foot strike from outside the box for his 23rd international goal.

Blackburn Rovers attacker Brereton-Diaz leveled the game up in the 20th minute when he precisely headed over Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from Marcelino Nunez's diagonal cross.

Argentina restored their lead, just as Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo had gestured to be substituted due to injury, with the veteran stopper unable to hold Rodrigo De Paul's long-range strike allowing Martinez to fire home the rebound in the 34th minute.

The visitors weathered Chile's late pressure, with Brereton-Diaz forcing a good low save from Martinez with an 84th-minute header.

If Thomas Tuchel is after any advice on how to deal with the Romelu Lukaku issue, the Chelsea head coach could do worse than to have a brief word with the man he will come face-to-face with on Wednesday.

Under now-Tottenham boss Antonio Conte across two seasons with Inter, Lukaku enjoyed the best form of his career, scoring and assisting a combined 81 goals in 95 appearances.

Lukaku has not been as prolific since returning to Stamford Bridge in August, finding the net seven times in 18 games, and already his future at Chelsea has been called into question following an explosive interview in the Italian press that was published last week.

The Belgium international was subsequently dropped for Chelsea's crucial clash with Liverpool on Sunday but is in line return for the EFL Cup semi-final first leg with Spurs after holding clear-the-air talks with his manager, meaning a possible reunion with Conte.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Conte got Lukaku out of the "deep hole" he found himself in at Manchester United, as the striker himself put it, and explores how Tuchel can go about getting the most out of Chelsea's all-time record purchase.


ROM AMONG EUROPE'S ELITE

As well as declaring an unhappiness with his role at Chelsea and expressing a desire to return to Inter as part of his 30-minute chat with Sky Sport Italia, Lukaku also opened up on the "hurt" he felt when Conte departed San Siro.

That is no surprise given the Belgian's form between arriving at Inter in August 2019 and departing two years later. 

The 47 Serie A goals scored by Lukaku in 72 games under Conte is his best return under any of the 11 managers he has played for at club level, followed by the 43 netted in 103 Premier League games when working with now-national team coach Roberto Martinez at Everton.

That includes a return of 24 goals in 2020-21 alone, on top of 11 assists, as he became the first player to score 20-plus goals and set up 10 or more in a single Serie A season since Opta started to record such data in 2004-05.

Indeed, only Cristiano Ronaldo (83), Kylian Mbappe (97), Lionel Messi (106) and Robert Lewandowski (121) were directly involved in more goals in all competitions among players from Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku's 81 across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

 

FLOPPED IN FAVOURED FORMATION

That impressive form helped Inter end their 11-year wait for Scudetto success last time out, a year on from falling just short in the Europa League with defeat in the final, but Lukaku was not alone in inspiring the Nerazzurri to glory.

Alongside him was Lautaro Martinez, who was very much the perfect foil in Conte's preferred 3-5-2 formation, which the Italian used 31 times in 38 league matches last season.

It is a formation Tuchel has used on only two occasions in the Premier League this term – in September's 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City and the 1-0 victory at Brentford three weeks later. 

Lukaku started both games alongside Timo Werner and Chelsea's tally of five shots against City and five against Brentford are the fewest the Blues have managed in any league game this term – Lukaku responsible for just one of those – as were the four and two chances created respectively.

While City's quality and dominance of the ball must be factored in, Lukaku's minimal involvement against Brentford was surprising – and surely no coincidence.

That west London derby blank came in the midst of a 10-game run without a goal for Lukaku, not helped by niggling injuries and a COVID lay-off, which he has since put an end to with three goals in four matches.

Chelsea's formation in those three most recent games Lukaku has scored in, incidentally, came with three attackers spread across the frontline. And there was one other common denominator, too: Mason Mount being on the field.

 

MOUNT TO PLAY THE MARTINEZ ROLE?

Mount assisted Lukaku's most recent goal in a 1-1 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion from a corner and the pair have combined to create nine chances in total for one another in the league this term, making it easily Chelsea's most dangerous partnership.

No Chelsea player has combined more regularly with Lukaku than Mount, with the pair linking up 10.06 times per 90 minutes so far this season. While that may not appear a huge amount on the face of it, next on that list is Mateo Kovacic with 6.45 combined passes between himself and Lukaku per 90.

However, Mount still has some way to go if he is to match the 54 combined chances created for each other in Serie A by Lukaku and Martinez in their two seasons used in tandem at Inter, which equated to nine assists.

Lukaku's relationship with Mount does provide some promise, though, as does the Anderlecht academy product's goalscoring performances in his most recent two outings prior to being dropped against Liverpool, showing Chelsea do not necessarily have to replicate Inter's system to help their main man thrive.

 

TUCHEL WILL NOT SHIFT

Lukaku is averaging fewer passes, overall touches and touches in the opposition box this season compared to last, while also shooting less frequently, dribbling less and creating fewer chances for others.

Yet instead of attempting to find the perfect formula and personnel for Lukaku, Tuchel will not shift from his own way of thinking.

"We cannot just play like Inter in the hope that will bring the most out of Lukaku. The system they played not only suited Romelu but also Lautaro Martinez and others. If you don't have five players you can't play five defenders," Tuchel said on the eve of the Tottenham tie.

"It works both ways. It is more about principles of how we play. I feel he is more impatient than anything else. He wants to be involved more, wants more big chances. 

"Like with every transfer, you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, team-mates, playing style, belief. He's not the first player to take time, but even while doing it he was scoring goals."

And maybe Tuchel has a point. After all, for all the talk of Lukaku's struggles and unhappiness, he is scoring at an almost identical rate to Cristiano Ronaldo (0.54 goals per 90 minutes compared to 0.56), and remains one of Europe's most prolific strikers of the past decade.

Now back from injury and a team exile brought on by his own actions, only Lukaku can ensure he avoids falling down another deep hole that he may this time be unable to escape.

Could Bayern Munich really part with Robert Lewandowski?

The 33-year-old talisman has broken all kinds of records in Munich, but he is not getting any younger.

With Erling Haaland the face of a new era, Bayern may be tempted for the Borussia Dortmund star to lead the way.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI OUT, HAALAND IN?

Bayern Munich could sell Robert Lewandowski to raise funds for in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to Sport Bild.

Bundesliga champions Bayern are planning with Lewandowski for the future, though they have reportedly not written off the idea of bringing in Haaland, who has been linked with Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Should Bayern and Lewandowski not agree to a new deal, the Poland international is believed to be interested in a switch to the Premier League or PSG.

As for Bayern, they feel cashing in on Lewandowski for around €60million would help in landing Haaland, who has a release clause of €75m.

Bayern are also eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele, while Inter's Lautaro Martinez, Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic and Juventus star Federico Chiesa are among their alternative options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Eurosport claims LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid want to bring in wantaway United forward Anthony Martial in a swap deal.

Barca and Atletico are interested in Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, says Sport. Azpilicueta is a free agent at the end of the season. Chelsea team-mate Antonio Rudiger is also set to become available on a free transfer.

- Calciomercato reports PSG are eyeing a move for Bayern forward Kingsley Coman. The 25-year-old Frenchman made three appearances for PSG before leaving the capital in 2014.

- Salzburg sensation Karim Adeyemi is wanted by Barca, Inter and Liverpool but the Germany international wants a move to Dortmund, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Lautaro Martinez scored twice as Inter went top of Serie A with a commanding 4-0 win over Cagliari at San Siro.

Martinez, who also had a penalty saved, opened the scoring with a first-half header and Alexis Sanchez doubled the lead shortly after the restart.

Hakan Calhanoglu’s thumping 25-yard strike increased the advantage, before Martinez put the icing on the cake by taking his Serie A tally for the season to 10 with a neat finish.

Simone Inzaghi's side moved a point clear of city rivals Milan at the summit of the table after an eighth win in 10 league meetings with the Rossoblu.

No team have scored more goals from set-pieces than Inter in Serie A this season.

So it was no surprise that the hosts netted another to open the scoring against the side that had conceded the most in the Italian top flight, with Martinez powerfully heading in from Calhanoglu’s corner just before the half-hour mark.

Martinez had a great chance to add a second just before the break after Denzel Dumfries was brought down by Alessio Cragno in the box, but the goalkeeper redeemed himself by guessing correctly to keep out the spot-kick.

Inter doubled their lead within five minutes of the restart as Sanchez neatly guided home Nicolo Barella's cross on the volley.

Calhanoglu got in on the act 66 minutes in as he beat Cragno with a stunning long-range strike.

Martinez was on target again two minutes later; latching onto Barella's lofted through ball before slotting in his sixth league goal against Cagliari in seven appearances.

Sanchez rattled the bar late on as the defending champions made an emphatic statement as they rose to the summit.

Lautaro Martinez claimed Lionel Messi previously attempted to convince the striker to leave Inter for Barcelona.

Messi has since ended a 21-year association with Barca as he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, while Martinez recently renewed fresh terms with the Serie A side until the end of the 2025-26 campaign.

The pair enjoyed success at the Copa America last July, collecting Argentina's first major trophy in 28 years as Messi starred with four goals.

But Martinez revealed the Blaugrana legend wanted to partner up with him at club level as well as he attempted to tee up a deal for the Inter man to join him at Camp Nou in 2020.

"We talked about it a lot in the national team, he asked me what the situation was like between me and Inter, but I always remained calm because we talked to the club to find an agreement to be happy here," Martinez told Sportmediaset.

"That's how it went and I'm happy to have stayed, I'm fine in Milan: I like my family."

Martinez, who signed from Racing Club in July 2018, was an integral part of Antonio Conte's title-winning team as he featured in every Serie A game for Inter.

The 24-year-old formed a dominant partnership last season with Romelu Lukaku, who left for former club Chelsea in August, but the Argentina international explained his strike partner's departure was a personal decision.

"Did he regret Chelsea? I don't know, he made a personal choice," Martinez added on Lukaku.

"He was happy at Inter, we talked often but if he chose to leave it was obviously because he felt like it. We are the ones who now work to give Inter the best."

Martinez, who netted 17 times last term, thrived under the now Tottenham head coach as Inter ended a 10-year wait for the Scudetto, but he revealed he is also enjoying life under new boss Simone Inzaghi.

"He's helping me so much," he told Inter's official website when asked about Inzaghi.

"We met when I came back from the Copa America and before that point, we'd already spoken quite a lot on the phone. He's helped me so much with my performances. 

"I always try to learn as much as I can from coaches because they have a wealth of experience and they always try to do the best for their players."

Lautaro Martinez claimed Lionel Messi previously attempted to convince the striker to leave Inter for Barcelona.

Messi has since ended a 21-year association with Barca as he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, while Martinez recently renewed fresh terms with the Serie A side until the end of the 2025-26 campaign.

The pair enjoyed success at the Copa America last July, collecting Argentina's first major trophy in 28 years as Messi starred with four goals.

But Martinez revealed the Blaugrana legend wanted to partner up with him at club level as well as he attempted to tee up a deal for the Inter man to join him at Camp Nou in 2020.

"We talked about it a lot in the national team, he asked me what the situation was like between me and Inter, but I always remained calm because we talked to the club to find an agreement to be happy here," Martinez told Sportmediaset.

"That's how it went and I'm happy to have stayed, I'm fine in Milan: I like my family."

Martinez, who signed from Racing Club in July 2018, was an integral part of Antonio Conte's title-winning team as he featured in every Serie A game for Inter.

The 24-year-old formed a dominant partnership last season with Romelu Lukaku, who left for former club Chelsea in August, but the Argentina international explained his strike partner's departure was a personal decision.

"Did he regret Chelsea? I don't know, he made a personal choice," Martinez added on Lukaku.

"He was happy at Inter, we talked often but if he chose to leave it was obviously because he felt like it. We are the ones who now work to give Inter the best."

Martinez, who netted 17 times last term, thrived under the now Tottenham head coach as Inter ended a 10-year wait for the Scudetto, but he revealed he is also enjoying life under new boss Simone Inzaghi.

"He's helping me so much," he told Inter's official website when asked about Inzaghi.

"We met when I came back from the Copa America and before that point, we'd already spoken quite a lot on the phone. He's helped me so much with my performances. 

"I always try to learn as much as I can from coaches because they have a wealth of experience and they always try to do the best for their players."

Inter saw off Spezia 2-0 at San Siro to make it three Serie A wins in a row under Simone Inzaghi for the first time.

The in-form hosts defeated leaders Napoli and lowly Venezia in their previous two league outings and were good value for their latest victory at home to Spezia.

Roberto Gagliardini rounded off a nice team move to give Inzaghi's men a half-time lead and Lautaro Martinez, who created the opener, doubled his side's tally from the penalty spot to seal the victory.

Inter climb two points above Milan in second and within a point of Napoli, but those two teams are in action later on Wednesday against Genoa and Sassuolo respectively.

Spezia had lost each of their last four away games, conceding 14 goals in the process, but they held firm until unlikely scorer Gagliardini made a breakthrough after 36 minutes.

Danilo D'Ambrosio played the ball inside to Martinez, who flicked it into the path of Gagliardini to sweep away from Ivan Provedel into the bottom-left corner.

Samir Handanovic was required to keep out a Kelvin Amian header before half-time, though Inter gave themselves some breathing space just short of the hour mark.

Having already rattled the crossbar with a powerful drive, Martinez's next shot hit Jakub Kiwior on the arm and the forward made no mistake in converting the resulting spot-kick.

That made it goals in each of his last three league games for Martinez and, while neither he nor his team-mates could add to the scoring, Inter saw out a routine victory.

 

Inter moved back to within a point of Napoli and Milan thanks to a 2-0 win at Venezia on Saturday, as Hakan Calhanoglu scored in a third consecutive Serie A game for the first time in his career.

Simone Inzaghi's men defeated leaders Napoli last weekend to boost their title defence, and they never looked like dropping points in Venice.

Venezia, who were chasing a third successive Serie A win for the first time since 1962, failed to impose themselves in the first half and deservedly trailed at the break to Calhanoglu's low drive.

Only Bayern Munich and Liverpool had scored more goals than Inter across the top five European leagues before the weekend. While that did not translate to a free-scoring exhibition this time, Inter finished Venezia off with a late Lautaro Martinez penalty to keep pressure on the top two ahead of their Sunday outings.

Despite dominating, Inter did not threaten the Venezia goal until the 30th minute when Sergio Romero leapt across his goal to keep Ivan Perisic's header out.

Romero was helpless soon after, however, as Calhanoglu squeezed a skidding 25-yard shot just inside the left post.

Venezia almost levelled with their very first shot five minutes later, with Samir Handanovic tipping Mattia Aramu's long-range piledriver over the crossbar.

Aramu went close from distance again just after the break, this time just missing the top-left corner after cutting in from the right wing.

Inter woke up again as Edin Dzeko tested Romero, before Ridgeciano Haps cleared a Milan Skriniar header off the line to keep Venezia in the game.

Romero made several more fine saves, but the visitors finally got the clincher at the death. Haps was deemed to have committed a handball in the box and Martinez confidently dispatched the resulting spot-kick.

Simone Inzaghi urged Inter to build on their strong performance against Napoli after ending the Serie A leaders' unbeaten start to the campaign.

Piotr Zielinski netted Napoli's first away goal in four league games against the Nerazzurri to open the scoring with their first strike at San Siro since April 2017.

However, Hakan Calhanoglu equalised from the spot before teeing up Ivan Perisic's header to put Inter 2-1 up at half-time, the Turkey international recording at least a goal and an assist in a Serie A match for the 10th time since his debut in 2017-18.

Lautaro Martinez seemed to have put the game out of Napoli's reach, though substitute Dries Mertens' pulled one back to overtake Antonio Vojak as the club's leading scorer in the Italian top flight with his 103rd goal.

The defending champions managed to hang on to end Napoli's 21-game unbeaten league run, taking them within four points of the top two, and Inzaghi wants more from his side ahead of a crucial Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

"It was a key game for the season, although the most important one will be in three days' time," Inzaghi told DAZN.

"We beat a very strong Napoli side and we did it deservedly too. It's always going to be a struggle against Napoli, especially as they have on average the highest possession statistics in Serie A this season with 60 per cent.

"We must continue like this. We've got to focus on the Champions League next because it's been too many years that Inter haven't got past the group phase and we have a big opportunity to achieve it.

"Wednesday we have a great chance, we have some injuries but it's a moment like this for everyone. We have to move forward match after match. We have left some points because the Champions League is very important for us."

Inter had Samir Handanovic to thank for the three points after his stoppage-time save against Mario Rui in which he tipped onto the crossbar from the left-back's header at the back post.

Mertens then blasted over during a chaotic eight minutes of additional time and Inzaghi admitted he was concerned in the closing stages while explaining why Calhanoglu got to take the first-half penalty.

"We had been a whisker away from winning several of the other head-to-head clashes, so a little fear was inevitable towards the end during eight minutes of stoppages," he added.

"We had tests in training, Perisic, Calhanoglu and Lautaro took three penalties each and scored all three, so I said just decide between yourselves! Hakan is in great shape at the moment and I wouldn't have taken him off if he wasn't on a yellow card today."

Inter handed Serie A leaders Napoli their first defeat of the campaign as Hakan Calhanoglu recorded a goal and an assist in a 3-2 home victory on Sunday.

Napoli had not scored in any of their past four away league games against the Nerazzurri but Piotr Zielinski netted their first since April 2017 after 17 minutes to open the scoring at San Siro.

Calhanoglu soon levelled from the penalty spot before assisting Ivan Perisic's header that put Inter into the lead before the interval.

Lautaro Martinez added a third just after the hour mark and, despite a wonderful strike from substitute Dries Mertens, the reigning champions triumphed to close the gap on Milan and Napoli to four points at the summit, ending the visitors' 21-match unbeaten Serie A run in the process.

Martinez headed over as the highest scorers in the division looked to strike first against a defence that had conceded just four goals this term.

However, it was Napoli who took the lead when Zielinski arrowed into the top-right corner from the edge of the area following Lorenzo Insigne's offload.

That advantage lasted all of eight minutes as Calhanoglu rolled his spot-kick into the bottom-left corner after VAR deemed Kalidou Koulibaly to have handled Nicolo Barella's effort.

Calhanoglu turned provider for Inter's second as Perisic flicked the Turkey international's corner past David Ospina a minute before half-time.

Napoli's task mounted further when Martinez drilled into the bottom-left corner after Joaquin Correa's pass on the counter.

Inter seemed set for a comfortable victory until Mertens fired into the top-left corner after Koulibaly dispossessed Edin Dzeko, though the hosts managed to cling on thanks to Samir Handanovic tipping Mario Rui's late header onto the crossbar.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract, the Serie A club have announced.

The Argentina international's new deal expires at the end of the 2025-26 season and does not contain a release clause, according to reports.

Martinez had previously been heavily linked with Barcelona, while rumours of interest from Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Tottenham circulated in the previous transfer window.

However, the 24-year-old has committed his future to the Serie A champions, who had remained determined to keep the former Racing star after seeing Romelu Lukaku depart for Chelsea.

Martinez said on Inter's website: "I am very happy to be here and to stay for so long. I send a big hug to all the Nerazzurri fans. Come on Inter!"

 

The news of Martinez's new deal came on the day Inter announced losses of €245.6million for the 2020-21 financial year.

Inter said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic amounted to approximately €110m due to the loss of matchday revenue from spectators and reduced income from sponsors.

The Nerazzurri also paid €30m towards "the termination of sports contracts". Head coach Antonio Conte left at the end of last season after reported disagreements with the board over transfer plans.

Financial concerns were largely behind Inter's decision to sell Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain for a reported initial fee of €60m, while they had also cast doubt on a possible extension for Martinez.

However, speaking at a meeting of shareholders, president Steven Zhang made it clear Inter did not want to compromise their sporting objectives despite the COVID-19 toll.

"Within an economic and social context distorted by the pandemic, the stability and financial sustainability of the company, combined with sporting competitiveness at the highest levels, are the focal points of our strategy," he said.

"The results we have achieved are testament to our work and our commitment. The club has returned to winning ways with a clear and defined vision."

Signed from Racing in July 2018, Martinez has scored 54 goals and provided 15 assists in 144 appearances for Inter in all competitions.

He featured in every Serie A game under Conte last season as they ended their 10-year wait for the Scudetto, combining to devastating effect with Lukaku as Inter finished 12 points clear at the top.

Martinez has five goals in 12 games in 2021-22 under new coach Simone Inzaghi, with Inter third in the table after 10 matches, seven points behind city rivals Milan at the summit.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract, the Serie A club have announced.

The Argentina international's new deal expires at the end of the 2025-26 season and does not contain a release clause, according to reports.

Martinez had previously been heavily linked with Barcelona, while rumours of interest from Premier League clubs including Arsenal and Tottenham circulated in the previous transfer window.

However, the 24-year-old has committed his future to the Serie A champions, who had remained determined to keep the former Racing star after seeing Romelu Lukaku depart for Chelsea.

Replacing Romelu Lukaku was never going to be easy, though, in Edin Dzeko, Inter may have gone some way to doing just that.

The 2021-22 campaign may still be in its infancy, but 35-year-old Dzeko has made a fantastic start as Inter look to defend the Serie A title that Lukaku's goals propelled them towards last season.

Dzeko took his tally for the season to seven with a sublime volley against Sheriff in the Champions League on Tuesday. Inter were pegged back, but the former Roma man turned from scorer to provider to tee up Arturo Vidal and swing the match back in the Nerazzurri's favour.

Heading into the first Derby d'Italia of the season, Simone Inzaghi's Inter sit three points above Juventus, who themselves have had to contend with the loss of a superstar forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo beat Lukaku in the Serie A scoring charts in 2020-21, yet while Inter, spearheaded by Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez, lead the way for goals scored so far this season with 23, Juve are lagging some 11 behind.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses how the two giants of Italian football have adapted – and are still adapting – to the attackers at their disposal, and if that could prove the difference on Sunday.

Replacing Rom

Chelsea broke their transfer record to re-sign Lukaku in August for a whopping £97.5million (€115m). The cash was needed by Inter, who had already sold Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain and lost their title-winning coach Antonio Conte as well. Lukaku had initially been happy to stay on under Inzaghi, but the pull of a return to Stamford Bridge ultimately proved too strong to turn down.

Across his two seasons with Inter, Lukaku scored 64 goals in 95 games across all competitions. Last season he scored 24 goals and set up a further 11, putting the suggestion he was merely a penalty box poacher firmly to bed. Indeed, Lukaku's tally of seven secondary assists (the pass before the assist) ranked joint-highest in Italy's top flight.

Lukaku refined his game and has returned to the Premier League a better player, leaving Inter with a huge void to fill. Dzeko represented a prudent option.

Having spent the last six seasons at Roma, Dzeko needed no adaptation to the league. He scored 85 Serie A goals during his spell in the capital, having previously played a huge role in Manchester City's Premier League title successes in 2012 and 2014.

Since his move to Wolfsburg in 2007, Dzeko has only scored under 10 goals in all competitions in three seasons, while he missed only 22 league matches during his stint with Roma. Reliable, experienced and a proven goalscorer. With Inter's financial restraints, it was a no-brainer.

Joaquin Correa, capable of playing anywhere across the frontline, has also come in to boost Inter's ranks, though the start Dzeko has made may have even exceeded the club's expectations. 

Dzeko is averaging just under a goal per game in Serie A, having netted six times across eight appearances, with an impressive shot conversion rate of 35.29 per cent and scoring five of the six big chances that have come his way.

He has also picked up where Lukaku left off in terms of creativity, crafting 15 chances so far across his 11 appearances in all competitions, registering two assists.

 

Partners in crime

Lukaku's departure also left Inter needing to find a suitable partner for Martinez. The duo combined for eight Serie A goals last season, more than any other pairing, albeit the first of those did not arrive until matchday eight in November.

In total, Lukaku found Martinez on 68 occasions in Serie A last term (at an average of 1.9 per game), with 16 of those being key passes, and five resulting in assists.

A brilliant example of their stellar combination in action came in a pivotal 3-1 win over Lazio in February; Lukaku – on a hat-trick at the time – charging clear of a desperate defender before coolly sliding it across for the waiting Martinez to tap in.

Martinez picked out Lukaku 52 times, providing three assists and creating a total of 13 chances for his strike partner. They played 36 league matches together, accumulating 2,069 minutes.

Dzeko too, however, has been able to link up well with Martinez. On average over the seven matches they have played in, he passes to his team-mate 1.7 times per game, with the Bosnia-Herzegovina forward creating two chances for his Argentine counterpart.

Across the 357 minutes played together, the duo have found each other 22 times, though Martinez is yet to craft a chance from those passes.

Inter, who have scored 78 goals across 32 Serie A games in 2021 (only Bayern Munich have managed more across the big five European leagues), would be extremely fortunate if this partnership proves as profitable as the Lukaku-Martinez axis did, though there are certainly bright signs.

 

Replacing Ron

Inter might have struck gold with Dzeko, but Juve have struggled in attack early in Massimiliano Allegri's second spell in charge.

With Ronaldo gone, the onus is on Paulo Dybala. He scored against Udinese in the opening game of 2021-22 and found the net against Sampdoria last month, only to succumb to an injury that has since kept him out.

Only four players across Europe's top five leagues managed more goals in all competitions than Ronaldo did last season (36), while Alvaro Morata (20) and Federico Chiesa (14) were the only other Juve players to get into double figures.

Dybala's injury issues have derailed his last few campaigns, leaving Morata as Juve's main goal threat.

The Spain international enjoyed an impressive partnership with Ronaldo, providing four assists and creating 15 chances in 2020-21, though the favour was not returned – Morata only receiving four key passes from Ronaldo in 27 league matches.

 

Yet if Juve can keep Dybala fit, there may be something for Allegri to build on, with Morata playing more passes to the Argentina forward than he has done to any other team-mate so far this season (12), albeit that has only resulted in one goalscoring opportunity.

Sunday's showdown at San Siro comes too early in the season to be truly decisive, though a second successive home win over Juve would be a huge boost.

In Dzeko and Martinez, Inzaghi has a functioning strike force that has already contributed 12 goals to Inter's cause. Allegri's two central forwards, meanwhile, have only managed six between them. 

Argentina captain Lionel Messi hit out at the referee, despite the in-form Copa America champions' 1-0 win against Peru in World Cup qualifying.

Lautaro Martinez's header two minutes before half-time settled Thursday's contest in Buenos Aires, where La Albiceleste extended their unbeaten streak to 25 matches across all competitions.

Peru wasted a chance to salvage a point when Yoshimar Yotun's penalty cannoned off the crossbar with 25 minutes remaining.

Messi reacted to Argentina remaining undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 through 11 CONMEBOL fixtures, though it remains to be seen what he was referring to when mentioning the referee after Martinez had also gone down inside the area in the first half.

"Difficult match, difficult to play. A lot of wind, they were playing deep, leaving little space for us," Messi wrote via Instagram.

"The referee always does this when he referee's us, as if he does it on purpose. But well, three important points and we're close to our objective."

Martinez scored his 17th international goal and the Inter star is Argentina's top scorer in the Lionel Scaloni era, two ahead of Messi.

"The play against Uruguay was more fluid, there was more space. It got complicated for us a little but we always tried to have a solution and today, we knew how to find that," Martinez said.

"Every time we go out on the pitch, we try to give our all because this shirt deserves respect and responsibility. All of this is exciting, my family saw me play again after a long time. Today, they're here again. I hope that the people have enjoyed the win."

Argentina head coach Scaloni became the second coach in the history of the national team to go 25 games unbeaten in all competitions, after Alfio Basile.

"Today we felt a bit tired. Playing a triple date in South America is wearisome," added Scaloni. "We took it forward and got the three points, which is what we wanted.

"It was a very important game and there was tension for that. I do not think that Argentina was satisfied with the result. Peru plays well, it is a very difficult opponent. Beyond the penalty play, I think the game was controlled."

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