Inter moved back to the summit of Serie A in the latest turn of an enthralling title race after they claimed a 3-1 win over Spezia.

The Nerazzurri threw down a gauntlet to rivals Milan as they deposed them at the top of the table thanks to goals from Marcelo Brozovic, Lautaro Martinez and Alexis Sanchez.

Simone Inzaghi's defending champions could well end the weekend back in second place, with their San Siro neighbours set to face Genoa later on Good Friday.

But victory at Stadio Alberto Picco at least means the Nerazzurri remain neck-and-neck, with a game in hand on the Rossoneri beyond this latest round ensuring destiny stays in their own hands.

In a game where opportunities were initially at a premium, it took almost 15 minutes for either side to register an attempt, with Denzel Dumfries heading wide.

But when Danilo D'Ambrosio headed down a looping cross near the edge of the box in the 31st minute, there was little stopping Brozovic's rasping drive into the top-left corner.

The visitors were not as clinically composed as they would have liked, however.

Nicolo Barella slid reaching for the ball past the hour to fumble a great chance for a second, while Dumfries blazed a subsequent low cross way over the crossbar.

But when Martinez flicked Ivan Perisic's cross beyond Ivan Provedel with just over a quarter-hour to play, Inter looked to be home and dry.

Giulio Maggiore fired home a response late on to set up a nervy final act, but the visitors restored the two-goal cushion in stoppage time, with Sanchez drilling a squared Martinez pass home.

 

Inter are firming as a likely destination for Paulo Dybala, as the end to his time at Juventus draws near.

The Argentina international has provided 96 goals and 51 assists in 265 league appearances for Juventus, but will not stay in an evident rebuild under Max Allegri.

While Dybala is set to leave after seven seasons in Turin, and after a near-move to Tottenham, it appears he might stay in Italy's Serie A after all.

 

TOP STORY – INTER CLOSE IN ON DYBALA

Inter are closing in on Paulo Dybala, whose contract at Juventus will expire at the end of the season, according to reports from La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The 28-year-old attacker has drifted out to the periphery for the Turin giants, ever since Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer, to the point where they are not willing to renew his contract.

Per the report however, Inter face potential stumbling blocks in fitting Dybala within their wage structure, with talks between the club and his representatives focused on bridging any gaps in expectations.

While Inter would seek to bring Dybala in next season, they are not in a capacity to offer a €6milliion salary, currently earned by Lautaro Martinez and Marcelo Brozovic.

Though Inter are unsure of Martinez's future at the San Siro, Alexis Sanchez falling out of favour under Simone Inzaghi could facilitate Dybala's addition.

 

ROUND-UP

– Juventus are keen to sign Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo, and are prepared to add Moise Kean as part of a package deal, according to Nicolo Schira.

Manchester United have reached a verbal agreement in principle for Erik ten Hag to leave Ajax and become their next manager, The Athletic is reporting.

Liverpool are prepared to make a £25million (€30m) offer for Torino's Gleison Bremer, per Tuttomercato.

Barcelona must be prepared to pay Juventus €100m in order to sign 22-year-old centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, Fichajes is reporting.

– Atletico Madrid are interested in signing Lautaro Martinez, with Inter setting a transfer price range of €70-80m, per Nicolo Schira.

James Maddison's importance to Leicester City is of little debate, but the Foxes are considering selling the playmaker.

Though the 25-year-old's sole senior England cap came in 2019, he has provided 13 goals and eight assists in 41 appearances across all competitions this season.

However, Maddison's sale might be required to facilitate the Foxes strengthening in other areas.

 

TOP STORY – MADDISON SALE TO FUND LEICESTER REVAMP

Leicester are weighing up the prospect of Maddison's sale in order to make new signings, the Daily Mail has reported.

Manager Brendan Rodgers wants three new additions to propel the Foxes up the Premier League following a season in which they have plateaued.

Leicester will reportedly back Rodgers, but the impact of coronavirus on their finances would likely mean outgoing as well as incoming transfers, and Maddison holds one of the higher market values at the club.

The 25-year-old's £50million price tag would provide serious flexibility in the transfer market, while the club also has to make decisions on Caglar Soyuncu and Youri Tielemans.

ROUND-UP

–  Barcelona want to confirm a contract extension for Ronald Araujo , who has received an offer from Manchester United, according to Sport, but the 23-year-old has viewed this club's pursuit of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen with caution.

–  Arsenal and Tottenham are keen to sign Lautaro Martinez , but Inter will only sell if they meet a transfer demand in excess of €80million (£67.3m), per Calciomercato.

– The Sun is reporting Newcastle are preparing a £20million offer for Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, while also showing interest in Watford's Ismaila Sarr.

–  Manchester United target Manuel Akanji wants to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season and is considering a move to the Premier League, according to Sport1.

Barcelona are reportedly too restricted by LaLiga financial rules to enter the race for the world's best players, even after inking a deal with Spotify worth up to $235million.

Xavi's side have gone from strength to strength recently, finding form and re-establishing Barcelona as a prime destination, with a number of strong signings rumoured to be heading to Camp Nou in the next transfer window.

While there may be interest in bringing in the biggest names in the world, Barcelona supporters will likely need to lower their expectations.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OUT OF SALAH RACE

It was reported that Barcelona have interest in signing Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, but The Daily Mirror claims that it will not be possible due to LaLiga's financial rules.

Salah – who boasts 28 goals and 10 assists in 36 matches for Liverpool this season – is likely to fetch a price similar to Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who Barcelona president Joan Laporta ruled out when talking with RAC 1, as well as Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, due to the lofty figures.

While Barca may not be willing to fork out €100m for a single signing, they are rumoured to have agreed to terms with Robert Lewandowski, who could fetch up to €60m at 33 years old, as well as Franck Kessie and Cesar Azpilicueta, with further interest in Ajax's Antony and Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

ROUND-UP

– Borussia Dortmund are interested in signing Premier League strikers Timo Werner and Anthony Martial from Chelsea and Manchester United, according to 90Min.

– According to The Sun, Newcastle United are keen on signing Watford's Ismaila Sarr in the upcoming transfer window in a deal believed to be worth around £35m.

– Leeds United have placed an asking price of £67m on Brazilian winger Raphinha, per The Daily Mirror, with The Athletic also reporting that the club insists his only release clause is triggered if the Whites are relegated from the Premier League.

– Calciomercato is reporting that Arsenal and Atletico Madrid will be competing for the signature of Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, with the Italian club said to be interested if the fee hits £58m.

– According to Mundo Deportivo, Paulo Dybala is interested in joining Atletico Madrid when his contract expires after this season, and while Inter also have interest, they would need to sell Martinez to do so.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez will miss international duty with Argentina after testing positive for COVID-19.

Martinez was called up for Lionel Scaloni's squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifying fixtures against Venezuela and Ecuador.

But the 24-year-old will not feature after returning a positive test for coronavirus ahead of travelling to South America on Sunday.

Martinez will now serve a period of self-isolation in Italy and will hope to return to fitness for Inter's crunch trip to Juventus on April 3 in Serie A.

The Nerazzurri attacker has scored 14 times in 27 top-flight appearances this season, leading the club's scoring charts after finding the net once every 123 minutes on average.

Martinez, though, has just three goals in his last 11 league games – all of those coming in a hat-trick against Salernitana on March 3.

Indeed, he has been on somewhat of a barren run since the end of December, but he did end a 490-day wait for a Champions League goal with his sumptuous strike against Liverpool earlier this month.

Martinez will be hoping he can rediscover his form when Inter travel to Juve as Simone Inzaghi's side, who have played a game fewer, look to cut Serie A leaders Milan's six-point advantage over them.

Simone Inzaghi has "great regrets" following Inter's 2-1 aggregate defeat to Liverpool, but stands by his decision to not substitute Alexis Sanchez prior to the forward's sending off.

Inter trailed 2-0 heading into the Champions League last-16 second leg and were fortunate not to be further behind as Joel Matip and Mohamed Salah hit the frame of the goal.

However, Lautaro Martinez's superb 20-yard strike with just over an hour played changed the mood around Anfield and gave Inter serious hope of salvaging extra time.

Inter's prospects of staying in the competition were badly dented 107 seconds later, though, as Sanchez received a second yellow card for following through on Fabinho.

Former Arsenal and Manchester United forward Sanchez had been yellow carded late in the first half for a similar lunge on Thiago Alcantara.

Inter, who conceded late on to Roberto Firmino and Salah in the first leg, offered little attacking threat with 10 men and were lucky not to concede when Salah again hit the post.

Inzaghi is known for substituting players when they are at risk of being dismissed, but he did not feel the need to bring off Sanchez in what was an at times bad-tempered game.

"Absolutely not," he told Sky Sport Italia after his side's 1-0 win on the night.

"In general I am very careful, but at that moment I needed Sanchez on the field. I was not going to change him on an evening like this."

 

Sanchez is the first Inter player to see red in the knockout stages of the Champions League since Cristian Chivu against Schalke in 2011.

Inter boss Inzaghi did not comment on whether he felt the red card was harsh as he did not see the second foul, though he felt his side deserved more over the two legs.

“We feel upset about the fact we had a player sent off just when we were getting the upper hand in the game," he said of Sanchez's first dismissal in 64 games in the competition.

"There are certainly great regrets for us as we wanted to reach the last 16.

"But we were up against Liverpool, who along with Manchester City and Bayern Munich are the best team in Europe right now, and we fought them on an even keel.

"We are probably paying the price for the final 15 minutes of the first leg, because I think we had two very good games against an excellent opponent.

"I think the first 75 minutes saw us deserve far more, then we conceded on a corner, which wasn't even a good one, and the second goal really knocked us down.

"During our best period of the game and the worst for them, Alexis Sanchez was sent off, and that was bad timing.

"Over the two legs we showed we are equal to a really strong Liverpool team. We played well and I am more bitter about the game at San Siro than what happened in this game."

 

Martinez's goal was his first in the Champions League in 11 appearances since netting against Real Madrid in November 2020.

It proved to be nothing more than a consolation over the two legs, though it did earn the Italian champions a first win against Liverpool home or away since the 1964-65 season.

But at the end of 180 minutes, Martinez was left to rue Sanchez's red card at a pivotal moment in the game.

"We did what we wanted to by showing character," he said. "It was a pity to then go down to 10 men because these are the details that make the difference.

"All we can do now is look forward. We are out of the Champions League but still have the Coppa Italia and Serie A. We must learn from these mistakes."

Liverpool advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 2-1 aggregate victory over 10-man Inter, despite losing 1-0 in Tuesday's second leg at Anfield.

Late goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in last month's first leg ensured the Reds were in control of the tie heading into the return fixture.

The hosts hit the frame of the goal through Joel Matip and Salah and looked under no threat until the point Lautaro Martinez fired in a stunning goal for Inter with an hour played.  

Alexis Sanchez was sent off 107 seconds later for a second yellow card, however, and it was Liverpool who went closest to scoring the next goal when Salah struck the post.

Thiago Alcantara and Matip returned to Liverpool's line-up and the latter picked out the crossbar from the best of Liverpool's limited first-half openings.

Milan Skriniar superbly blocked Virgil van Dijk's goal-bound header moments later, while Hakan Calhanoglu tested Alisson at the other end from a low free-kick.

Liverpool slowly started to turn the screw and should have been out of sight in the tie, only for Salah to fire against the upright after Diogo Jota was denied by Samir Handanovic.

Those wasted chances came back to haunt Jurgen Klopp's side when Martinez unleashed a swerving 20-yard shot into the top-right corner.

Sanchez, who received a yellow for a challenge on Thiago late in the first half, was sent off for following through on the same opponent almost immediately after Martinez's goal.

Liverpool were further frustrated as Salah's cushioned volley came back off the upright, but the hosts protected their one-goal aggregate lead to reach the last eight.

Manchester United have plenty of issues to solve ahead of next season, no matter where they end up in 2021-22.

It seems certain that Ralf Rangnick will not be in charge, with Mauricio Pochettino among the favourites to take over, though the former RB Leipzig boss is set to move into a consultancy role at Old Trafford, and certainly has an eye for picking a player.

United have requirements in central midfield, regardless of whether Paul Pogba stays or goes, but based on current evidence, they also need a striker.

Their problems up top have come back to bite them in recent games. In fact, against Watford last time out, United had 22 shots, finishing with an expected goals (xG) of 2.7, yet drew 0-0 at Old Trafford. Putting away chances has been a major area of concern.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club at the end of the August transfer window, and while he has contributed 15 goals in all competitions, it could easily be argued that United's all-round play has taken a hit since the 37-year-old's homecoming.

Edinson Cavani has featured only sporadically this season and, like Ronaldo, is approaching the twilight of a glistening career. Both players may well not be at United heading into 2022-23.

Anthony Martial is out on loan at Sevilla, with his United future looking rather bleak. Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, seems to lack the clinical nature to lead a title-challenging line.

The last time United went out and signed a striker at their peak was the season in which they last won the Premier League – Robin van Persie proving the difference in Alex Ferguson's last campaign in charge.

On Sunday, United face rivals Manchester City. A team that has perfected playing without a recognised number nine.

That is testament to Pep Guardiola's genius, but it has proved that it can be done. So, looking further down the line, who is the forward that United need?

Here, Stats Perform assesses some standout options.

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Kane has long been linked with a move to Manchester, to both sides of the red-blue divide. It appeared City would bring the England captain north last year, yet Tottenham refused to budge, and it would seem that particular ship has sailed – Kane turns 29 this year and, with Erling Haaland's reported €75million (£62.1m) release clause, City are reportedly prioritising the Borussia Dortmund star. 

That could that leave the door open for Kane to rock up at Old Trafford instead, especially if the option of linking up with Pochettino is on the table.

It has been a tough season for Kane by his lofty standards, though his brilliant performances against City and Leeds United in recent weeks showed the player that was at the top of his game last season is still there.

Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)

Taking Kylian Mbappe and Haaland out of the equation, United might still look at the younger end of the spectrum. In that regard, Real Sociedad's Isak may fit the bill.

Isak scored 17 LaLiga goals last season and, while he has not reached quite the same heights in 2021-22, at 22 he is definitely one for the future. His tally of eight goals across all competitions is disappointing, though when looking at expected goals on target (xGOT) – a tool that can quantify the quality of a player's finishing – Isak is at 12.2 for the season, suggesting that the placement of his shots should have resulted in more goals.

Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen)

While not among the elite, if United are looking for a goalscorer then they could do worse than Schick, who has carried over his fine form from Euro 2020 into this season, scoring 20 goals in 24 matches for Bayer Leverkusen, striking on average every 84 minutes, which is the third-best minutes per goal ratio of strikers in Europe's top five leagues to have already netted at least 20 goals in all competitions, after Haaland and Robert Lewandowski (more on him later).

 

Schick has already had something of a nomadic career but at 26 is about to enter his prime years. His shot conversion rate of 28.17 is superb, ranking fourth out of players from the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, LaLiga and Ligue 1 to have scored at least 10 times.

The Czech's xGOT of 16.1, minus his xG of 14.4, gives him a shooting goals added (sga) figure of +1.7, meaning he is executing better quality shots than the quality of the chances he has attempted shots from. However, in contrast to Isak, he may also have benefited from goalkeepers failing to keep out attempts they would be expected to.

Lautaro Martinez (Inter)

One player who is among Europe's elite forwards is Inter's Martinez. The Argentine struck up a fearsome partnership with Romelu Lukaku in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and he has scored 12 goals already this season.

Martinez's aggression and pace could make him an ideal frontman for the Premier League, though his finishing can be erratic (he has had 102 attempts this season but has a conversion rate of just 11.76 per cent), while he has also underperformed his xG (17.1). The Argentine did only sign a new Inter contract last year, so he would be hard to prise away.

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern)

Before disregarding the option of Lewandowski as fantasy, take into account that he has not yet signed a new deal with Bayern Munich. The 33-year-old's contract expires in 2023.

Lewandowski is undoubtedly the best out-and-out striker in world football right now and, if Ronaldo and Cavani were to leave, United might prefer to go with experience. 

 

Not that experience is all Lewandowski would offer. He will go down as one of the best to grace the game and has 39 goals in 33 appearances this season, slightly overperforming his xG (37.6) in the process. He nets on average every 73 minutes and, like Van Persie a decade ago, would surely transform United into title contenders. That being said, the same was also said about Ronaldo.

Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) 

Something of a wildcard option, Joao Felix is not the typical striker, but if United were to go down a Guardiola-inspired false nine route, then the former Benfica boy wonder might be the perfect fit.

It would be harsh to say Joao Felix has been a failure at Atletico Madrid, but it is fair to suggest he has not been a rip-roaring success under Diego Simeone either.

Yet the 22-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance. Indeed, he outshone compatriot Ronaldo in United's recent Champions League draw with Atleti and with the tactical nous he is sure to have got from Simeone, it would be intriguing to see him at Old Trafford.

Inter made up for a dip in their determination and character with a resounding 5-0 win over Salernitana, according to Lautaro Martinez. 

A four-game winless run in Serie A and two wins in seven in the competition had seen Inter slip off top spot and fall two points behind leaders Napoli. 

However, the Nerazzurri returned to the summit on Friday after Martinez found the back of the net in a top-flight game for the first time since December. It ended a barren run of no goals in 425 minutes, making it his worst such spell in all competitions since going 430 minutes without a goal in January 2018.

The Argentina international ended the match at San Siro with a hat-trick, while strike partner Edin Dzeko scored the other two as Inter went a point clear at the summit ahead of Napoli's meeting with Milan on Sunday. 

Martinez was pleased to see Simone Inzaghi's side get back on track after a sluggish start to the year. 

"A win was missing and there were no goals for the team. Today we scored five and we are happy," Martinez told Sky Sport Italia. 

"I personally experienced a difficult moment because a striker lives to score goals. Today I was lucky enough to score three goals. 

"I went out on the pitch with a lot of desire and anger because it was an important match for us and an important period is approaching. 

"We had to demonstrate a lot of things because we have lost a bit of determination and character.  

"When I go to bed, I talk a lot with my wife because I'm sad when I can't help the team with goals. I talked a lot with her, with friends and my family. I dedicate these three goals to my daughter. 

"[Inzaghi] always gives me confidence. He fights with us from the sidelines."

Lautaro Martinez ended his goal drought and Inter's four-game winless run in Serie A with an excellent hat-trick in a 5-0 thumping of bottom side Salernitana. 

Inter have struggled for form since the turn of the year, but Martinez ended a wait for a league goal that stretched back to December as part of a first-half double that took his Serie A tally to 50. 

Martinez completed just his second hat-trick for the Nerazzurri in the 56th minute, with Edin Dzeko then bagging two in the space of five minutes.

Inter cruised to the final whistle and moved a point clear of Napoli and Milan – who meet on Sunday – at the top of Serie A. 

Salernitana may well have taken a shock lead in the fourth minute had Simone Verdi kept his effort from next to the penalty spot down. 

It was a rare moment of vulnerability for Inter, who saw Martinez rattle the crossbar before angling a finish into the bottom-left corner after Nicolo Barella picked out his darting run. 

Martinez doubled his tally five minutes before half-time when he was again fed by Barella and held off Luca Ranieri to dig out a low shot that got the better of Luigi Sepe. 

Salernitana were unable to keep Martinez at bay after the restart as the striker raced in front of Radu Dragusin to steer Dzeko's right-wing cross into the roof of the net. 

Dzeko turned goalscorer as he thumped in a delivery from Robin Gosens, who had only replaced Matteo Darmian two minutes beforehand. 

The VAR then deemed Dzeko was not offside before he turned Denzel Dumfries' pass beyond Sepe, giving him a second of the game.

Joaquin Correa wasted a couple of opportunities to extend Inter's lead, and Martinez missed a chance to score for the fourth time, but the three points were already secure.

Victor Osimhen has netted 11 goals in all competitions, prompting admiration from some top clubs.

The Napoli striker is valued at around €80million by the Serie A leaders.

Manchester United are understood to be interested in Osimhen.

TOP STORY – REAL TO RIVAL MAN UTD FOR OSIMHEN

The race for Napoli forward Osimhen is heating up with Real Madrid joining United in pursuit of his signature, according to Calciomercato.

Osimhen's Napoli contract does not expire until 2025 but both clubs are ready to flex their muscles and move for him in the off-season transfer window.

The 23-year-old forward's stock has risen dramatically since Napoli signed him for €70m from Lille in 2020.

ROUND-UP

- Inter are lining up a move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram as they prepare for Lautaro Martinez to be prized away amid interest from Manchester City, claims The Sun.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Milan have agreed personal terms with Lille defender and Newcastle United target Sven Botman, who has been lured by a five-year deal.

- Barcelona are set to join the race for Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, who has interest from Arsenal and Manchester United, reports the Mail.

- The Express claims that Aston Villa are interested in manager Steven Gerrard's ex-Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez along with Milan's Franck Kessie .

- Teenage England international Jude Bellingham has opted to remain with Borussia Dortmund for one more season, claims Bild.

- Kicker claims that Roma have joined the pursuit for Stuttgart's Sasa Kalajdzic along with Tottenham, West Ham, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig .

- West Ham are interested in Bristol City striker Antoine Semenyo, according to The Mirror, while Celtic are also tracking him.

Inter missed the opportunity to move top of Serie A as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Sassuolo on Sunday.

Giacomo Raspadori struck after eight minutes at San Siro, with Gianluca Scamacca adding a second in the first half.

Simone Inzaghi's side dominated possession throughout but were unable to breach Alessio Dionisi's defence, leaving the Nerazzurri with just one win from their last five games across all competitions.
 
Leaders Milan were held by Salernitana on Saturday, but Inter – who have played a game fewer – failed to grasp the opportunity to move a point clear at the summit.

Hamed Traore skewed the first presentable chance of the contest off target before Raspadori squirmed a finish from inside the area under Samir Handanovic to open the scoring in the eighth minute.

Hakan Calhanoglu responded by firing just wide from range, but Sassuolo doubled their lead shortly after when Scamacca headed Traore's cross home with the help of the post. 

Smart Andrea Consigli stops from Milan Skriniar and Roberto Gagliardini maintained the visitors' advantage, while Domenico Berardi curled onto the crossbar in a frantic first half.

Inzaghi made two changes at the break, with substitute Edin Dzeko almost having an immediate impact.

Dzeko was thwarted from close range by a fine double stop by Consigli, before Lautaro Martinez inexplicably poked wide of an open goal.

Skriniar was then required to clear Raspadori's chip off the line and Berardi angled just wide of the far post with another sumptuous curling strike.

Inter (17) have gained the most points from trailing situations in the Italian top flight this season, and Stefan de Vrij thought he had sparked another late comeback only for his header to be ruled out by VAR for a Federico Dimarco handball.

 

What does it mean? Inter slip up in pursuit of Scudetto

After seeing Milan held, Inzaghi's side knew a win would take them top – a point clear of Stefano Pioli's team and four clear of third-placed Napoli.

However, after the Nerazzurri's six-game unbeaten league run against Sassuolo ended, Inter remain two behind Milan and just one clear of Luciano Spalletti's men as the race for the Scudetto continues to twist and turn.

Dionisi's side had won just one of their last eight league games, but victory on the road saw them climb above Empoli and into 11th.

Brilliant Berardi

Berardi may feel unfortunate he did not get on the scoresheet in the opening 45 minutes after sending a glorious left-footed strike against the crossbar from just outside the area.

However, the Sassuolo captain did assist Raspadori's opener, which made him the first player across Europe's top-five leagues to register double figures for both goals and assists this season.

Missing Martinez

Martinez has scored four goals against Sassuolo in the competition – only registering more against Cagliari – but the striker struggled here as he fired another blank.

The Argentina international missed a glorious second-half chance and has now not found the net in seven league appearances, his joint-longest run in Serie A (also seven matches in August 2019). 

What's next?

Inter visit Genoa on Friday, while Sassuolo host Fiorentina the next day.

Lautaro Martinez expects Inter to be quickly on the front foot when they tackle Liverpool in the Champions League at San Siro on Wednesday.

The blow of losing top spot to Milan in Serie A could be softened by a positive midweek result against Jurgen Klopp's Premier League giants.

Inter remain firmly in the Scudetto race, one point behind Milan and with a game in hand, and last season's champions are also eager to make progress in Europe.

Liverpool will provide them with a stiff test, and the Reds have already won away against Milan in the competition earlier this season.

Martinez told Prime Video: "Against Liverpool, we want to be protagonists, keep the ball, attack, defend the goal well and hurt the opponent."

The Argentinian forward has yet to score in the Champions League this season, despite totalling 2.14 expected goals (xG) in the group stage. That metric assesses the chances he has had, with Martinez having had 25 shots so far, of which just six have hit the target.

He has played six games in the Champions League in each of the last three seasons, hitting five goals in 2019-20 and one last term. Indeed, since scoring against Real Madrid in November 2020, Martinez has played 697 minutes without finding the net in the competition.

To get off the mark against Liverpool would be ideal timing.

"You will see a player who has grown a lot," Martinez said. "It will be a great game to play. We passed the group phase, which was already important to us. Now I hope to do well and to lend a hand to the team to try to move forward, which is our dream."

Martinez hailed Liverpool boss Klopp as "a great coach", and predicted the German will have done his homework on Inter.

"Liverpool have many strong players," Martinez added. "We have to prepare for the game well and work on the possession phase because it will be important. They attack with a lot of people, they play with very fast forwards. We will have to be careful."

Liverpool won home and away when these sides met at the same last-16 stage in the 2007-08 season, with Fernando Torres getting the only goal of the game at San Siro.

Up to this point, the only team to have recorded wins over both Milan and Inter in the same European Cup or Champions League campaign have been Harry Redknapp's Tottenham in the 2010-11 season.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni insists there is still plenty to play for in World Cup qualifying with spots in their squad for Qatar 2022 up for grabs "except for one".

The already-qualified Albiceleste got past Colombia 1-0 in Cordoba on Tuesday thanks to Lautaro Martinez's 29th-minute strike to clinch another three points.

Scaloni did not call up Lionel Messi for Argentina's two qualifiers over the past week following his recent COVID-19 case while Rodrigo De Paul and Leandro Paredes were also absent, with Emiliano Buendia making his debut off the bench against Colombia.

"We had the possibility of calling up players but we preferred not to expose footballers who aren’t playing right now," Scaloni told reporters after the game.

"Not only did we miss players but we had to improvise in putting players in positions. We went forward with these call ups who came to contribute and in the end, it went well.

“Here, you can’t relax. Everyone is part of this process but on the pitch, you have to perform. The players that were here today took advantage of their opportunity.

“There’s still a lot left until the World Cup. No one has their spot secured, except for one, as I have always said.”

The victory over Colombia means Scaloni becomes the first Argentine coach to beat all nine South American national teams.

The clean sheet meant Argentina have not conceded in their past five home qualifiers, while the win also extended Argentina's unbeaten run to 29 games.

"I don’t think that’s important, it’s how the team functions and how these players feel wearing the shirt," Scaloni said about their unbeaten streak.

Argentina has extended its unbeaten run to 29 games after Lautaro Martinez's 29th-minute strike earned them a 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Colombia in Cordoba.

Martinez netted his 19th international goal from Marcos Acuna's cross as already-qualified Argentina moved to 35 points from 15 qualifiers, with 13 wins from their past 15 games. 

La Albiceleste were missing talisman Lionel Messi but welcomed head coach Lionel Scaloni back to the touchline after COVID-19 and he would have been pleased with his side who were largely in control throughout.

Colombia, whose stuttering qualifying campaign is in strife after seven games without a win nor a goal, struggled to retain possession and mustered few genuine chances on goal against a stubborn Argentine defence, who have kept five clean sheets from their past five home qualifiers.

Messi's Paris Saint-Germain teammate Angel Di Maria, who was dangerous throughout, curled a 16th-minute effort just wide of Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas' goal.

In the 29th minute, Vargas could not prevent Argentina going ahead when Inter forward Martinez trapped Acuna's cross inside the box and lashed home, squirming under the goalkeeper's grasp.

Out of nowhere, Colombia almost levelled on the stroke of half-time, with Luis Diaz setting up Miguel Borja who was denied by Emiliano Martinez. The new Liverpool signing's follow-up effort was cleared off the line by German Pezzella.

Acuna forced a good save from Vargas early in the second half, while the Colombian goalkeeper made a better block with his outstretched right arm to deny Di Maria from range in the 65th minute.

Giovani Lo Celso, who left Tottenham for Villarreal on loan on deadline day, flashed a chance over the bar as Argentina survived a late scare from Johan Mojico's shot which almost caused a Nicolas Gonzalez own goal, although that would not have counted due to offside.

Argentina should have grabbed a second in the 94th minute when Gonzalez broke in behind but opted to square for Paulo Dybala allowing the Colombian defence to clear.

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