Inter forward Alexis Sanchez served up a reminder of his talent before expressing frustration at a lack of opportunities under Simone Inzaghi this season.

Sanchez produced an inspired performance as the Nerazzurri responded to their derby defeat by Milan with a 2-0 win over Roma, advancing to the Coppa Italia semi-finals.

After Edin Dzeko opened the scoring at San Siro, Chile international Sanchez sealed victory with a ferocious 25-yard effort midway through the second half.

The former Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal forward also registered game-high tallies of 13 crosses and five key passes.

Sanchez was making his 23rd appearance of the season in all competitions, but only his sixth start.

While acknowledging the team must come first, he spoke of his frustration at mainly having to settle for cameos.

He said: "I always want to play. The more I play, the better I feel. I want to do the best for the team, it's difficult to play five or 10 minutes and do well."

Looking at Inter's current circumstances, Sanchez told Sport Mediaset: “We know that we played better than Milan in the derby, but we shouldn't have made those mistakes.

"We're staying calm as we're still top [of Serie A] and we want to continue down our path."

Meanwhile, Inzaghi expressed delight at his players' response to their disappointing weekend defeat at the hands of Milan.

The Inter head coach said: "The boys were very good, it was not an easy match. Roma are a quality team, with an excellent squad. We controlled the pitch very well and deserved [to reach] this semi-final.

"I congratulated the boys because to play a match with such strong personality two and a half days after the setback in the derby wasn't easy."

The only sour note for the hosts was an ankle injury sustained by defender Alessandro Bastoni during the first half.

Inzaghi hopes that any spell on the sidelines for the Italy international will be minimal.

"I hope it is nothing serious," Inzaghi said. "The doctors will do the necessary checks, we hope not to lose him for too long because he is really too important to us."

Simone Inzaghi bemoaned Inter's 2-1 loss to fierce rivals Milan and admitted his players learned a "tough lesson" as the Scudetto title race was blown wide open.

Inter were heading seven points clear at the top of Serie A with a game in hand after Ivan Perisic's first-half volley put them in control of Saturday's Derby della Madonnina.

The Nerazzurri continued to dominate for large parts of the match and would have been further ahead if not for Mike Maignan, who pulled off four big saves in the first half.

However, Inter were punished for failing to kill off the contest when Olivier Giroud scored a quickfire double at San Siro in his first taste of this famous fixture.

Giroud slid in at the back post to level up the game on 75 minutes and added a second three minutes later, becoming the first Frenchman to score twice against Inter in Serie A.

After falling to a barely believable first home league loss since October 2020 – also against Milan – Inzaghi was left to wonder just how his side chucked away the points.

"This is football. We dominated in every way but weren't sharp at the end. They were lucky on the first goal and were smart on the second," he said.

"I saw a derby with one-way traffic for 60 minutes. In the final 25 minutes, we weren't as sharp or as in control, and the game was more open to individual incidents. 

"We know it's a defeat that hurts, but strong teams must be able to analyse their errors.

"If we played it again 10 times, we might lose it once. We all know how important the derby is; we didn't deserve to lose, but that is football.

"Until the equaliser, we had allowed Milan practically nothing. It's a tough lesson, but a valuable one to make us more determined to kill off games so this doesn't happen again."

 

Inter's players were unhappy that Giroud's first goal was allowed to stand as they felt that he barged into former Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez earlier in the attack.

But Inzaghi accepted Inter only had themselves to blame after falling to just a second league loss to Milan – who lost Theo Hernandez to a late red card – in their last 12 meetings.

"The lads got irritated at the equaliser, as there was probably a clear foul on Alexis Sanchez and we lost our focus," he said.

"We should've scored the second goal, while Alexis Sanchez was barged off the pitch practically by Giroud on the goal.

"But the fact remains if we had taken more of our chances, [the Giroud incident] wouldn’t have mattered. It's not a problem, it was a challenge. 

"If you think it's fair, that's fine. It's not the issue – the lads lost their focus a bit after that incident and that's the problem. The referee let a lot go."

Saturday's defeat was Inter's first to Milan in the league after leading in the game since February 2004 and leaves them just one point clear, albeit with a game in hand.

Samir Handanovic, whose 30 Serie A appearances against Milan is the most of any current player against another in the competition, echoed the thoughts of his head coach.

"Today we did everything. We had the game under control and played well," he told Inter TV. "But then we lost a few too many balls and were punished. 

"There are many more games and the mistakes have to be reviewed. It must be understood why we managed the last 15 minutes like we did. 

"Sometimes you take risks and you are not punished; today we took risks and were punished."

Simone Inzaghi scoffed at the idea Inter might kill off Milan's title hopes in Saturday's derby, as he claimed even Juventus remain in the Scudetto hunt.

A victory for Inter would move them seven points clear of Milan, while also having the advantage of a game in hand.

Inzaghi's Inter will be the home side at the San Siro stadium the teams share, and the Nerazzurri lead the way at the top of Serie A after losing just one of their opening 22 games.

It would be hard to see Milan coming back from defeat to their great rivals, but Inzaghi is not discounting the prospect.

Asked if three points for Inter would count out Milan, Inzaghi said: "I don't think so. There are another 15 matches to go and we all saw what happened in the first half of the season. We were seven points behind and drew the derby and still managed to close the gap."

Milan made a flying start to the season but were reeled in, with 2021-22 carrying distinct echoes of how the 2020-21 campaign panned out.

Then, it was Antonio Conte pulling the strings as Inter charged through to capture the title, and now it is Inzaghi's turn, with a first Scudetto of his coaching career beckoning.

He triumphed in Serie A as a player with Sven-Goran Eriksson's double-winning Lazio in 1999-2000, and is not getting ahead of himself this time.

"It's an important game and we know how much it means to the fans," Inzaghi said of derby day. "But there are 45 points and a lot of football to play before we can draw any conclusions.

"I played in lots of derbies and there's never a favourite. Tomorrow will be no different: it's a game that will be won by fine margins. It will come down to our motivation."

Inter have lost only one of their last 11 Serie A meetings against Milan. That defeat was a 2-1 setback in October 2020, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice in the opening 16 minutes. Inter have won six and drawn four of those 11 games, with Milan keeping a clean sheet just once.

Most signs point to Inter giving up no ground to their city rivals this weekend. Their last Serie A home defeat was that 2020 loss to Milan, and they are undefeated in 28 games since in the competition when hosting.

Inzaghi won just three of 10 Serie A games against Milan while serving as head coach at Lazio, and his Inter side drew 1-1 with Stefano Pioli's Rossoneri earlier this season.

For obvious reasons, Inzaghi would dearly love a win this time. Napoli and Milan both enter the weekend as Inter's closest challengers, four points back and having played one game more than Inzaghi's men.

Despite this position of strength, Inzaghi said the title race was "all still open".

"Besides Milan and Napoli, there's Atalanta and Juventus, who are very good teams," Inzaghi told a news conference, according to Inter's website.

"Juventus have been doing really well in the last two months and they've made some great signings. All of the teams down to Juventus could win the Scudetto."

Juventus raided Fiorentina last week to sign Dusan Vlahovic, the exciting Serbian forward who hit 33 goals in Serie A in 2021, and that should fortify Massimiliano Allegri's fifth-placed Bianconeri for a push into the Champions League places.

Juve are 11 points off the top, also having played 23 games to Inter's 22. Atalanta are a point better off than Juve, occupying fourth spot.

Inter have confirmed the signing of Felipe Caicedo on loan from fellow Serie A side Genoa until the end of the season.

The 33-year-old, who previously worked under Inter boss Simone Inzaghi at Lazio, ​becomes the first Ecuadorian player to represent the Nerazzurri.

Caicedo joined Genoa from Lazio in August but will spend the rest of 2021-22 at San Siro, where he will provide competition to the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Edin Dzeko.

"I'm very excited. I want to be a success here," Caicedo, who will wear the number 88 shirt, told Inter's official website. 

"I want to thank the coach, Inzaghi, for trying his best to bring me here. I'm delighted and can't wait to start training and playing for Inter.

"I'm really proud to represent my country and to be the first Ecuadorian to play for Inter. I'm very happy and I think I can do very well here."

 

Caicedo scored only one goal in 10 appearances for Genoa in all competitions – albeit just two of those were starts – while chipping in with a couple of assists.

Since arriving in Serie A with Lazio in August 2017, the former Manchester City player has scored 29 goals in 114 games at a rate of one goal every 162 minutes.

That is a similar strike rate to new team-mate Martinez, who has netted a goal every 158 minutes across 120 appearances in the Italian top flight.

Caicedo played a part in Lazio's Coppa Italia triumph under Inzaghi in 2018-19 and is looking forward to reuniting with the Italian coach.

"I worked with him for four years at Lazio, and now we get to link up again," the former Ecuador international said. "He was really important. 

"He convinced me to join straight away. So I am grateful and can't wait to start training under him again."

Caicedo is the second player to join Serie A leaders Inter this window following the arrival of wing-back Robin Gosens from Atalanta, with that deal also initially a loan.

Inter coach Simone Inzaghi has tested positive for coronavirus.

The Serie A champions confirmed the 45-year-old returned a positive test on Monday following routine testing.

In a brief statement, Inter informed supporters that Inzaghi "will now follow the protocols set out in the healthcare guidelines".

Nevertheless, the news is not expected to result in major disruption for the club given they are not to be in action again until February 5, when they host neighbours Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.

Under Italian Football Federation (FIGC) guidelines, players and staff only need to isolate for three days if they are showing no symptoms.

Similarly, any players deemed to be a close contact of Inzaghi's will still be able to train as long as they have not tested positive for the virus.

Measures were introduced at the start of the month that meant players, staff and fans had to have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine to be allowed into stadiums.

However, even before that rule was brought in, Serie A was reported to have had as many as 98 per cent of players already double vaccinated.

Simone Inzaghi praised his Inter players for not losing their heads after they came from behind to beat Venezia 2-1 at San Siro on Saturday.

Thomas Henry had put Venezia in front against the run of play with an excellent header, before Nicolo Barella ensured Inter went into the break level.

The reigning champions looked like they would drop points at home in Serie A for only the third time since October 2020, but Edin Dzeko sealed an important win in the 90th minute.

The result lifted the Nerazzurri five points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit, with Inzaghi citing his players' ability to remain calm after Venezia's opener as the key to their success.

"The team believed to the end. The lads did so well considering we were coming off the Atalanta game and extra time in the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa," he told DAZN.

"If we analyse the goal, we should've done better and been more attentive before Henry's header. We need to get back to being ferocious in these situations.

"The team could've lost its head after that goal, but we kept going and turned it around in the end.

"We won the Supercoppa, we progressed in the Champions League and Coppa Italia – all these are important signs and now we enjoy this victory too.

"We'll get back together on Wednesday and start preparing for the derby."

Inzaghi also bemoaned the state of the San Siro pitch, saying it could harm his side's title tilt.

"The biggest problem both Inter and Milan face is the state of San Siro, as the turf is becoming unplayable for both of us," he added.

"We could've done better, but honestly the turf is awful. We need to take action – it has never been this bad before."

Dzeko had gone four Serie A games without scoring before his crucial winner, which came from his seventh attempt on goal, and he appeared to praise Inzaghi for not substituting him. 

"When you score at the last minute it's normal to cheer with anger," the striker said. "We certainly missed my goals but the important thing is that the team wins. It was nice to score in the 90th minute."

"Inzaghi understands football; he has played football and he knows that I can solve the match even in the last minute.

"There are no easy ones in Serie A. Today we saw it and perhaps it was one of the more difficult ones for us this year. 

"We suffer from time to time, but the important thing is to win and take home the three points. They defended well and there were few spaces, but to find the goal you need patience."

Simone Inzaghi expressed his delight with Inter's reaction as his side came from behind to beat Empoli in the Coppa Italia last 16.

Empoli stunned the Serie A leaders in the second half as substitute Nedim Bajrami cancelled out Alexis Sanchez's opener before the visitors fortuitously took the lead at San Siro when Ionut Radu deflected into his own net.

Andrea Ranocchia levelled things up with a stunning, acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser to send Inter into extra-time in the last 16 of the competition for the fourth time in their last eight outings.

Substitute Stefano Sensi stepped up to deliver the decisive strike after 104 minutes, Inzaghi's side now boasting 20 different scorers this season – more than any other team in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions.

Despite squandering an initial one-goal lead, Inzaghi was pleased with what he saw from his side as they made the quarter-finals for the 18th time in their last 19 seasons.

"I think we had an excellent first half, where we found the goalkeeper who should be congratulated for two, or three, difficult saves," Inzaghi told Inter TV post-match. 

"In my opinion, we deserved a few more goals, then in the second half we lost clarity, we stretched out. In the spaces, they showed the qualities they have. 

"We went down, we changed players, we changed formation, but the boys gave everything on the pitch, they didn't give up and we go to the quarters with a lot of confidence.

"We suffered, we went under, but I take the big reaction."

Inter return to Serie A action on Saturday when they host Venezia.

Stefano Sensi scored the winner as Inter required extra-time to edge past Empoli 3-2 in the Coppa Italia last 16 on Wednesday.

Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring after just 12 minutes at the San Siro, but Empoli turned things around as substitute Nedim Bajrami equalised before the visitors fortuitously took the lead when Ionut Radu deflected into his own net.

Andrea Ranocchia produced an acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser to send the tie to extra-time and substitute Sensi delivered the decisive strike after 104 minutes. 

Victory meant Simone Inzaghi's Serie A leaders squirmed through to the quarter-finals for the 18th time in 19 seasons.

Inter deservedly took the lead when Sanchez nodded Denzel Dumfries' cross into the bottom-left corner - the forward's second goal in the competition, 4,291 days after his first for Udinese in 2010.

The same pair combined eight minutes later, but Dumfries saw his effort kept out by Jacopo Furlan before a fantastic double save from the Empoli goalkeeper denied Lautaro Martinez.

Ranocchia should have doubled the lead immediately after the interval but wastefully headed over.

Bajrami punished Ranocchia's miss as he placed a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner after Kristjan Asllani's offload before VAR overturned a penalty decision for a Dumfries handball. 

Empoli went ahead when Radu inadvertently turned into his own net after Patrick Cutrone nodded against the woodwork, though Ranocchia equalised with an audacious volley past Furlan.

Sanchez saw a tap-in ruled out for offside at the end of normal time, but Sensi blasted the winner into the top-left corner from the edge of the area in extra time.

 

What does it mean? Familiar story as Inter need extra-time

Inter enjoyed last-minute success against Juventus in the Supercoppa final last week and required more last-gasp heroics from Ranocchia to keep them in the tie.

The centre-back's equaliser meant four of the Nerazzurri's previous eight last-16 meetings in the competition have gone to extra-time.

Sensi's late strike ensured Inter remain unbeaten against Empoli in 11 games in this competition, the club's longest run against an opponent in the cup without losing, and Inzaghi's side will be among the early favourites to lift the trophy in May.

Brilliant Bajrami

Bajrami almost single-handedly changed Empoli's fortunes after his half-time introduction, scoring the equaliser in a classy attacking display, but his efforts ultimately proved to be in vain.

The substitute created a game-leading four chances despite only playing the second half and extra-time.

Poor Pinamonti

Loanee Andrea Pinamonti was offered the unusual opportunity of starting up top against his parent club Inter but did little to impress.

The striker managed just 13 touches and won none of his five duels before his half-time removal in a timid performance.

What's next?

Inter return to league action on Saturday at home to Venezia, while Empoli host Jose Mourinho's Roma the following day.

Inter have been linked with Juventus star Paulo Dybala, but Simone Inzaghi instead focused on his delight with the recent form of Alexis Sanchez.

Dybala is out of contract at Juve at the end of the campaign and recent reports have suggested that the Nerazzurri will move to add him to their ranks ahead of next season.

But speaking at a news conference ahead of Inter's trip to Atalanta on Sunday, Inzaghi refused to comment on the possibility of moving for the Argentine, who has scored nine goals and registered four assists in 20 games in all competitions for the Old Lady this season.

"I've read and heard things but I don't like talking about players from other teams, I'm proud of the ones I have," he told reporters.

One of the players the former Lazio manager is proud of is Sanchez, who scored the winning goal in the last minute of extra time as Inter beat Juve 2-1 in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday.

"Sanchez has been decisive and I am happy to coach him," Inzaghi added. "For a coach, to see the action that determined the match, with the four players who came on during the match and [Arturo] Vidal was also decisive with his entrance, is a great satisfaction.

"Sanchez is a great asset, but I'll evaluate him for the game against Atalanta.

"I've already said it, Sanchez is a champion who always wants to learn. He didn't need the goal against Juve, he's already settled down for two months."

Inzaghi also had words of praise for Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini, who once again has the Bergamo side in the top four of Serie A, three points ahead of Juve in fifth with a game in hand, with only Inter (51) and Milan (46) having scored more goals in the league than Atalanta's 44.

"Gasperini has been doing well for many years at Atalanta," he said. "Football has evolved over the years and occupying space at the right time is increasingly important.

"It's going to be a good, physical game, one to be experienced. Like the first game [2-2 at San Siro in September], with a very high tempo."

Despite being eight points behind Inter heading into the game, when asked if Sunday's opponents are a part of the race for the Scudetto, Inzaghi insisted: "Absolutely. Atalanta are in fourth place and they're improving all the time. It's a title race match."

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Inter players look set to be given a "prize" from club president Steven Zhang after their dramatic 2-1 Supercoppa Italiana success over Juventus, according to coach Simone Inzaghi.

The Nerazzurri lifted the first piece of silverware of the Italian season late in extra-time, with Alexis Sanchez netting the decisive goal.

Weston McKennie had previously given Juve the lead, before a Lautaro Martinez penalty tied it up.

The two teams would remain level throughout the second half and for much of the additional 30 minutes.

That was until an error from Alex Sandro allowed Matteo Darmian to nudge the ball to Sanchez, who prodded home from close range with the last kick of the game to spark joyous celebrations.

It ensured Inzaghi became the first coach to beat Juventus in three finals (since 1929-30), as he continued his 100 per cent success rate in the Supercoppa.

Inzaghi spoke briefly after the game before sending his assistant to the news conference on account of losing his voice, revealing what president Zhang had told the players afterwards.

"He [Zhang] was very happy," Inzaghi told Mediaset. "He brought the team together and complimented us.

"The boys responded, they wanted a prize and I think the president will grant it."

While Inter will hope to add more significant titles to their collection later in the season, namely the Scudetto, Zhang suggested this success – coupled with their place at the top of the Serie A table – shows their hard work is paying off.

He told Inter TV: "This is a really special moment for us; we're delighted. The team played great, we're also top of the league, and this trophy is the fruits of the labour of both the coach and the players.

"I'm really happy with the result. This trophy win in what's a difficult time in football spurs us on. All of this is down to all the hard work we've put in together over these last six years.

"I'd like to dedicate this win to all of the Inter fans around the world and everyone who works for the club. They're the ones who have carried this project forward."

Simone Inzaghi says his Inter side must maintain the high standards they have set after the champions beat Lazio 2-1 to return to the top of Serie A.

Milan had taken over at the summit with a 3-0 win at Venezia on Sunday, but the Nerazzurri responded with an eighth consecutive Serie A victory in their first game since the winter break later in the day.

Alessandro Bastoni put them in front with a brilliant long-range strike - his first goal since June 2020 - but Ciro Immobile's 18th goal of the season drew Lazio level in the first half.

Bastoni turned provider for Milan Skriniar to secure all three points in the second half, whipping in an inviting cross that his fellow defender headed in off the crossbar.

Inter are unbeaten in 12 top-flight matches since a 3-1 loss when head coach Inzaghi made a miserable return to his former club Lazio in October.

They lead fierce rivals Milan by a point with a game in hand, but Inzaghi knows they cannot rest on their laurels in the title race.

3 - In 18 appearances in this #SerieA season, Milan Skriniar has scored three goals (all header), as many as those scored in 32 games played in the last season. Giant.#InterLazio

— OptaPaolo  (@OptaPaolo) January 9, 2022

He told DAZN: "I am fortunate to have important players and I am very happy. We must continue like this because the championship does not stop, all the antagonists have won.

"We just have to win, after the break we had the postponement with Bologna [on Thursday due to Bologna's COVID-19 outbreak] and we returned against a team that could have been more on the ball, having played on Thursday.

"The boys were very good and I congratulated them."

Lautaro Martínez had a goal disallowed when the VAR adjudged the striker to have been marginally offside as he raced to get on the end of Alexis Sanchez's defence-splitting pass before Bastoni opened the scoring.

Inter were good value for their victory after conceding for the first time in seven Serie A matches and now turn their attention to a Supercoppa Italiana showdown with Juventus on Wednesday.

Inzaghi added: "It wasn't easy because Lazio have quality. Our victory is well deserved, we made an excellent return. I'm happy, we have another great match on Wednesday, it's a final and we have prepared ourselves in the best way possible."

Simone Inzaghi lauded his Inter players for an outstanding first half of the Serie A season, pointing out a successful defence of the Scudetto was not always widely expected.

Inter are favourites for a second straight title heading into the second half of the campaign having created a gap at the top of the table through 19 matchweeks.

In beating Torino 1-0 on Wednesday, the Nerazzurri moved seven points clear of Napoli and Milan, who were both in action later the same day.

But Inter had to withstand a tumultuous off-season to get to this point, losing coach Antonio Conte and star players Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and, to health issues, Christian Eriksen.

It was not necessarily a given then that the champions would maintain their form from last term, reaching the end of 2021 having scored 104 goals (the most since Milan's 120 in 1950) and won 32 matches (trailing only Juventus' 33 in 2016) in Serie A.

The Torino game, settled by Denzel Dumfries' latest strike, was not Inter's best display either but marked a sixth straight win without conceding for the first time in their top-flight history.

A delighted Inzaghi, who left Lazio to join Inter at the end of last season, told a news conference: "I immediately had great confidence when I joined and met the squad.

"Now, it is probably convenient for everyone to saw that Inter are a juggernaut and are the favourites, but I remember in July that's now what people were saying.

"The players have been good, but for us these results must be motivation to keep pushing, as a journey full of pitfalls awaits us."

Dumfries is not an obvious difference-maker in the final third, scoring twice in 30 Eredivisie games for PSV last season, but he now has three in 16 in Serie A.

Five team-mates have four goals or more, with Inter now boasting options in attack as well as an increasingly sturdy defence.

Defender Alessandro Bastoni told DAZN: "We've gone on a good run of not conceding goals after a tough start.

"It was important to re-establish a solid defence in line with what we were doing last season and we're doing great in that regard.

"Coach Simone Inzaghi's approach gives us an element of surprise which we were perhaps lacking last year. We have a great time together on the pitch and we get on great together. The new players have slotted right in.

"We're on a great winning run and we want to keep this up. We want to experience the feeling of winning the Scudetto, which we got to enjoy last season."

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi is happy with the Nerazzurri's first half to the season but says you do not win trophies for being top at Christmas.

The Nerazzurri face Torino on Wednesday knowing that win, lose or draw they will sit top of the Serie A at Christmas, currently holding a four-point lead from Napoli and Milan who are both on 39 points.

Inzaghi took over at Inter following a challenging off-season for the champions with Antonio Conte exiting along with Romelu Lukaku but has steadied after a slow start yet he is motivated for more.

“It’s normal to be pleased at the moment," Inzaghi told Inter TV. "We’re thrilled to be top of the table heading into the winter break, but we know we don’t get any trophies for that.

"It’s a great feeling, but it should also spur us on to achieve more.

“We’re in good form. The players are all committed. We’re lucky enough to be working well together despite having so many fixtures to play.

"We’re doing well, but we know there’s still a long way to go. We’ve seen that over the first 18 games of the season the leaders have changed quickly."

Inter boasts an impressive record after 18 games, with 13 wins and only one defeat, having scored a league-high 48 goals despite Lukaku's off-season departure.

The Nerazzurri have won six in a row in the league and are undefeated in 10 games, dating back to October's 3-1 loss to Lazio.

Inzaghi's side have also qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League where they will face Liverpool.

"We’re on track in terms of what was asked of us, which was to get back into the last 16 in the Champions League and to be in the top four in the league, so we’re pleased," Inzaghi added.

"The players are working very hard and there’s motivation to keep going down this path, with all the many challenges that lie in wait.”

Simone Inzaghi admits Liverpool were one of the teams that Inter were aiming to avoid in the Champions League knockout stages.

The Nerazzurri have been drawn to play the six-time European champions in the last 16 of the competition; hosting the Reds at San Siro on February 16 before the return leg at Anfield three weeks later.

Group B winners Liverpool were one of three sides to progress from the first phase with a 100 per cent record intact, along with Bayern Munich and Ajax.

Meanwhile, Inter finished as Group D runners-up behind Real Madrid, who inflicted home and away defeats on the reigning Serie A champions.

"Liverpool were among the teams to avoid, along with Manchester City and Bayern Munich," Inzaghi said on Sky Sport Italia.

"But now we are in the last 16, and we will play it knowing that we meet a team that have won all six in the group and that won the Champions League two years ago."

The two sides last met at this stage of the 2007-08 competitions, with the Reds prevailing 3-0 aggregate winners.

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