Thomas Tuchel insists Chelsea will not sit back on their away-goal advantage against Real Madrid as it is in the club's DNA to try to win every match.

Christian Pulisic scored a crucial goal for Chelsea in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg before Karim Benzema levelled up the tie at 1-1 through Madrid's only shot on target.

The onus is on Madrid to score an away goal of their own in Wednesday's return match at Stamford Bridge, but Tuchel does not intend to set his side out to protect their narrow lead.

"For me, the challenge is to forget the result in two-legged games and go on and start anew at 0-0," he said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"We will prepare to win the match, nothing else. I don't know any other way to prepare other than to encourage my team to go out and try to win it.

"If we are at our best then it's a no-brainer that we go for the win. We want to win games, this club is about winning.

"This game and competition is about winning. We are in the semi-final second leg.

"The first result is not as important as everybody thinks. There is zero importance for me in the preparation of this match. 

"It's not changed anything about how we've prepared, zero influence. We will encourage them, we will demand from them and we will be strong tomorrow as a group."

Tuchel was left frustrated by Chelsea's finishing in the first leg, with Timo Werner guilty of missing good opportunities either side of Pulisic and Benzema's goals.

Werner has scored from three of his 20 shots in this season's Champions League, giving the Germany international a shot conversion rate of 15.0 per cent.

For comparison, Madrid striker Benzema – who will overtake Raul as the competition's outright fourth top goalscorer if he nets on Wednesday – has scored from six of his 31 shots (19.4 per cent)

But while Tuchel accepts his attacking players have to be more clinical, he is happy to persist with his current set-up.

"I believe that Timo absolutely wants to score more, but we have to understand sometimes strikers miss chances. This is part of the game," he said. 

"We have another training session today and it is always about the last impression from the players.

"Everybody needs to step up to take responsibility for scoring. This will come maybe with more time and some self-confidence. 

"I am pretty relaxed about it and trust my players, no matter who starts tomorrow."

Madrid were without captain Sergio Ramos last week but the experienced defender has been included as part of their squad for Wednesday's game.

Los Blancos have won three and drawn one of the four Champions League games Ramos has started this season, compared to three wins, two draws and two losses in the seven games he has missed.

Tuchel is expecting Ramos to return to the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge, which could also possibly mean a change in formation for the visitors.

"Does Ramos play or not? This is a tough question because I don't know if he's fit or not. We'll see after training and when they give the line-up," the German coach said.

"Does it change for Real Madrid? Yes, it changes them a lot. He's the captain of the most successful team in Europe in recent years.

"It changes a lot but we cannot lose our heads about this decision. I think that he will start, we will prepare for that and we have to make sure he can't do it alone."

"I am not sure if they will play 5-3-2 again, maybe they will go 4-3-3. From this decision, things change. 

"I believe that it is not about formation, what Real Madrid play, it is about how we play. Are we brave enough? Are we courageous enough?"

Chelsea have progressed from five of their past seven knockout ties in the Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg. 

However, one of those two eliminations came in their last semi-final appearance in the competition, versus Atletico Madrid in 2013-14 when losing the second leg 3-1.

The Blues' only previous triumph in the competition was in 2011-12 and Tuchel, a beaten finalist with Paris Saint-Germain last season, knows the importance of lifting the trophy.

"I never felt like this competition is our holy grail since I arrived but I felt that this club is about winning," he said. 

"It does something to you, you feel it. We are very competitive, very serious about any game, this is what I like.

"I never felt we had a holy grail to reach the final or winning the Champions League is the only target. I have a strong feeling that every win counts, the club demands it."

Tuchel confirmed midfielder Mateo Kovacic will again miss out for Chelsea through injury, but Antonio Rudiger is fit to play with the aid of a protective mask.

Zinedine Zidane has the deepest squad that has been available to him for some time as Real Madrid travel to face Chelsea with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Ferland Mendy all available.

Madrid have often had a significantly depleted squad over the past couple of months, with a host of key players ruled out for extended periods.

But with Los Blancos needing a positive at Stamford Bridge in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg, Zidane is once again able to count upon many of them.

While Raphael Varane's absence with an abductor injury sustained against Osasuna at the weekend is a blow, Ramos is available again for the first time since the end of March.

Whether he comes straight back into the starting XI given his lack of match action is another matter, though Eder Militao and Nacho have looked a solid pairing in recent weeks, keeping a clean sheet against Liverpool at Anfield in the quarter-finals.

Zidane will also have options at left-back, with Mendy recovering from a calf strain suffered in mid-April, while Marcelo has been able to travel.

The Brazilian was seemingly set to miss out entirely after he was called up to monitor a local election.

But, according to Spanish outlet La Sexta, an elderly woman – who was apparently a "second substitute" for the election role – volunteered to take Marcelo's place, freeing him up to join the squad before their flight to London.

Valverde, who has missed the past couple of weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, has joined up as well.

Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Chelsea, meaning they either need to win or secure a score-draw – with the exception of 1-1 – to progress to the final in Istanbul at the end of the month.

An all-English Champions League final could be in the offing as Manchester City and Chelsea look to progress from the last four.

The two Premier League sides each have the edge going into the second leg of their respective semi-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

And history is in their favour as they set their sights on the final in Istanbul on May 29.

Here we preview the two second legs using Opta numbers.

Manchester City v Paris-Saint Germain: Guardiola's men eye European history

It is advantage City after a dramatic first leg at the Parc des Princes, a second-half fightback and 2-1 win meaning PSG will have to score at least twice to progress.

Should Pep Guardiola's men knock out last season's finalists, they will reach their first UEFA European final for 51 years, since winning the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup final against Gornik Zabrze.

This would break the record for the longest gap between appearances in UEFA European finals, held by Sporting CP (41 years between 1964 Cup Winners' Cup final and 2005 UEFA Cup final).

City have won their previous six Champions League matches and another win at the Etihad Stadium would also see them break the record for the longest winning run by an English team in European Cup/Champions League history. Three other sides have won six in a row: Manchester United (1965-66), Leeds United (1969-70) and Arsenal (2005).

They will be the favourites having gone unbeaten in each of their four previous meetings with PSG (W2, D2), with the Ligue 1 club only facing Milan more often in the Champions League (four times) without winning than City (three times).

There have been 47 previous instances in the European Cup/Champions League of an English side winning the first leg of a two-legged knockout tie away from home, and on all 47 occasions the English team has progressed.

Recent history suggests City should be wary of a PSG turnaround, though, Les Parisiens having completed a comeback the last time they lost the first leg of a Champions League tie 2-1, beating Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 last season.

Yet they have never progressed from a European tie after losing the first leg at home, meaning Guardiola could have plenty to celebrate as he breaks Carlo Ancelotti's record for most Champions League knockout games coached by taking charge of his 63rd.

Chelsea v Real Madrid: Omens point to Blues ending Zidane streak

Chelsea have a slight edge going into the return leg after a 1-1 draw in Spain, Christian Pulisic having scored a superb away goal.

The Blues were frustrated not to add to that opener and were pegged back by Karim Benzema, who could overtake Raul and become the outright fourth top scorer in the Champions League if he nets his 72nd at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

But Chelsea are unbeaten in their four previous matches in European competition against Madrid, who are winless in their past four away games against English sides in the Champions League (D2 L2), scoring only two goals across the four games.

And the Blues have progressed from five of their last seven knockout ties in the Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg, meaning the omens are against Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane emulating three managerial greats.

Zidane is looking to secure his fourth progression in four Champions League semi-final ties, which would equal the record for most semi-final tie progressions by a coach in competition history (four - along with Alex Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi).

In his way is a coach who has proven formidable in home games in this tournament.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who guided PSG to last year's final, has only lost four of his 18 home games as a manager in the Champions League (W12 D2), with his sides scoring 48 goals across these fixtures - an average of 2.7 per game.

If Madrid are to defeat the odds that are seemingly stacked against them, then midfielder Toni Kroos is likely to play a key role.

Kroos has been involved in 59 shot-ending sequences in the Champions League this season; the most of any midfielder in the competition, and second only to PSG's Kylian Mbappe (60) among players for teams remaining in the competition.

Marco Verratti believes Paris Saint-Germain must "suffer" to defeat Manchester City but does not think they need a miracle in the Champions League semi-final.

Mauricio Pochettino's side must overcome a 2-1 deficit in Tuesday's second leg at the Etihad Stadium, having let a first-half lead slip in last week's initial encounter.

City's capacity to establish suffocating midfield control after half-time in the Parc des Princes, laying the foundation for goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez to turn the tie in their favour, was very much in keeping with the style espoused by their manager Pep Guardiola.

Verratti expects more of the same in Manchester, but feels PSG must not be cowed as they seek to reach back-to-back finals.

"Guardiola has always done this. He likes to have control of the ball, accelerate when he wants, calm things down when he wants. You have to focus on us," the Italy midfielder told a pre-match news conference.

"We have a great team, a great coach. We must remain lucid, calm, we will have our opportunity.

"We did not lose 4-0 in the first leg, there is no need for a miracle. They have a small advantage, but we are there, we are close.

"It will go through small details. If City want to play with the ball, it will be up to us to play with our style of play tomorrow."

How successfully PSG can implement that style might well rest on the fitness of Kylian Mbappe, who will be assessed having suffered a calf injury in the initial game.

In terms of City's approach, Verratti is relishing taking on a collective of midfield playmakers for whom he has plenty of admiration.

"[De Bruyne], he's a very strong player, he's fantastic," he said.

"It's a very strong collective since the arrival of Guardiola. We had a good game in the first leg, the second half was less good, but because there is a great team in front.

"Gundogan and Rodri are very good players who control the team. You have to take control of the middle to have a great game."

As such, Verratti feels toil in pursuit of an against-the-odds victory is inevitable.

"We are not a team of aliens. We will suffer," he added.

"We play in the Champions League, one of the best teams in the world. The times when we have to suffer, we have to suffer together.

"It's sport, football, there are times to have chances and to score and others to suffer. Of course, it won't be easy to go to the final. We knew it.

"We suffered against Bayern Munich, against Barcelona, but we are ready to do anything during tomorrow's match."

Neymar has issued a rallying call to Paris Saint-Germain ahead of their Champions League semi-final showdown with Manchester City, claiming he is ready to "die on the pitch".

PSG slipped to a 2-1 defeat in last week's first leg at Parc des Princes, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez overturning Marquinhos' first-half opener.

An impressive opening to the contest from Mauricio Pochettino's men subsided, with City exerting almost complete control on proceedings after the interval.

Neymar cut an increasingly isolated figure, while attacking partner Kylian Mbappe failed to attempt a single shot after starting a match for the first time in his Champions League career.

The world's most expensive player is aware of the tall task that awaits at the Etihad Stadium, although he has not given up hope of last season's beaten finalists returning to the showpiece.

"We have a very difficult match against Manchester City, but we have to believe, no matter what the stats or our percentage chance of winning is," Neymar told PSG's in-house channel.

"I think that every Parisian has to believe in us. I'll be the first to do so.

"I'm on the front line and I'll be the first warrior to go into battle for the team.

"I'm going to give the best of myself and I'll do everything I can to qualify, whatever happens."

With a chuckle, he added: "Even if I have to die on the pitch."

The stats Neymar alludes to certainly do not make for comfortable reading for those of a PSG persuasion.

There have been 47 previous instances of English clubs winning the first leg of Champions League or European Cup tie away from home. On each occasion, they have progressed.

City have won each of their past six Champions League matches and have 10 out of 11 victories this season, with a goalless draw at Porto the only blemish. A seventh win would edge Pep Guardiola's men ahead of Manchester United (1965-66), Leeds United (1969-70) and Arsenal (2005) as the outright English record holders for the longest winning run in Europe's premier club tournament.

PSG have played City four times in European competitions and are yet to beat the Manchester side.

Paris Saint-Germain have still not decided whether Kylian Mbappe will feature in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final with Manchester City on Tuesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's men face an uphill battle to progress to the final for the second successive season after losing the home leg 2-1 at Parc des Princes.

PSG must score at least twice to go through but could be without Mbappe, who missed Saturday's Ligue 1 game with Lens because of a calf injury.

He did not have a shot in the first leg, marking the first time he failed to muster an attempt after starting a game in his Champions League career.

Still, plotting a turnaround at the Etihad Stadium will be significantly more difficult without Mbappe, who has been involved in the most shot-ending sequences (60) of any player still left in the competition.

Since joining PSG in 2017, Mbappe has missed only two of their 38 Champions League games, with the capital club winning one and losing the other. Their shots-per-game average is 13.6 when he plays compared to 8.5 across the two matches he missed.

Asked about Mbappe's availability, head coach Pochettino replied on Monday: "We need to assess Kylian, today.

"He is going to start with an individual training session, we still didn't decide whether he is going to be available or not tomorrow.

"We will see today and take the decision tomorrow."

Idrissa Gueye will not feature after he was sent off in the first leg, the midfielder receiving a two-match ban for a straight red card he received during a second half in which PSG had just one shot and 35 per cent of possession.

Pochettino knows PSG cannot allow City to dominate the game again if they are to have a hope of getting through to the Istanbul showpiece.

"We need to be clinical and we need to be aggressive," he added. "We need two goals if we want to have the possibility to go through to the final. That is the objective and we are going to try.

"We need to take the risk, we need to be brave, we need to plan the game knowing Manchester City is a team that can manage a different way to play.

"It's going to be a battle, it's going to be difficult, but the most important thing is that we are going to be ready."

The odds are stacked against PSG, with English sides having won the previous 47 ties in the competition when they have won the first leg away.

However, Pochettino believes there will be no shortage of motivation to upset the odds in the PSG camp.

"Houston, we have a problem if we need to motivate our players," said Pochettino with a smile. 

"We need to have a call if that happens. Players love to play this type of game."

Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City players are facing the toughest task in European football as they take on Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Second-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez saw City come from behind to claim a 2-1 win in Paris last week, putting them in prime position to reach their first final in Europe's top competition.

Guardiola is a two-time winner dating back to his Barcelona tenure a decade ago, but knows the semi-final stage can be particularly unforgiving.

Inter and Chelsea ended Barca's title defences at the penultimate hurdle in 2010 and 2012, while LaLiga heavyweights Real Madrid, Barca and Atletico accounted for Bayern Munich in the semis across Guardiola's three seasons in Bavaria.

"From my experience, the semi-final is always difficult," he told a pre-match news conference, having confirmed City have all senior players available with the exception of back-up defender Eric Garcia, who is laid low with a sickness bug.

"You play with the result of the first leg, you play with the mind here [thinking] final, final, final. Sometimes you can forget what you have to do.

"Always in my experience the second leg of the semi-final is the difficult one. The final is completely different, it doesn't mean it's easier, it's completely different."

Not that Guardiola feels his previous years sampling the highs and lows of the Champions League will have much bearing against Mauricio Pochettino's side, nor City's own trials, having finally snapped a run of three consecutive quarter-final exits.

"I don't know if it works in this competition, in this moment, experience," he said.

"I'd like to feel we've learned from our defeats but I don't know how we're going to react – it's always a mystery.

"The disappointment we had, especially in the last two seasons in the quarter-finals against Spurs and Lyon, being here again is nice.

"I'd love to say we'd learned from that but maybe tomorrow we can play a bad game. At the same time, what I think right now is we'll do an incredible game and reach the final.

"This is my feeling, but if the other ones are better we congratulate the opponent. We don't want to miss this opportunity by not being ourselves. I've a feeling we are going to do well."

Guardiola has frequently urged City to "be who we are" in the face of crunch moments this season – an approach that has left them on the brink of a third Premier League title in four attempts and secured a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

It was also a feature of his team talks as City turned around half-time deficits away from home against Borussia Dortmund and PSG to lie within touching distance of a maiden Champions League final.

Having been accused, sometimes unfairly, of over-thinking major European nights in his career, a yearning to keep things simple appears to be Guardiola's mantra this time around.

"Sometimes, in these type of games, you don't need much emotions. Start to be more calm and know exactly what you have to do," he said.

"I don't have to tell anyone what we've lived through for 11 months, not just players – the backroom staff, the physios, the doctors, the cooks. Everybody knows how important it is and how we have been looking, for many, many years, for this moment."

Guardiola added: "We spoke a lot yesterday and today about who we are, what we have to do. It's not necessary to speak more about PSG because we played against them one week ago.

"I speak about us, us and us and what we have to do. We are going to try to do it."

John Stones is relishing the prospect of tangling with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe once more as Manchester City eye a place in the Champions League final.

Pep Guardiola's side came from behind to claim a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain last week at the Parc des Princes, putting them in a strong position for Tuesday's return at the Etihad Stadium.

PSG's all-star attack was largely nullified, centre-back Marquinhos having headed them into an early lead, and especially so after half-time.

Mbappe failed to attempt a single shot for the first time in a Champions League game where he has completed 90 minutes, with Stones and central defensive partner Ruben Dias understandably taking plenty of plaudits for their display.

"It's never easy, whoever we come up against. On the big occasions it matters the most," Stones told reporters at a Monday news conference, after Mbappe was confirmed as a member of PSG's travelling party despite sustaining a calf issue during the initial encounter.

"To come up against two world-class players is exciting for us as defenders. To test ourselves, show our ability and show how we can adapt to the challenge ahead to keep them quiet.

"I think we did that really, really well in the second half of the previous game

"It's another exciting spectacle tomorrow. Hopefully we can keep the whole team quiet, not just those two and get through to something special, which would be the final."

City are in the semi-finals for the first time since 2016, with a slew of knockout stage disappointments having afflicted them under Guardiola.

However, Stones feels setbacks versus Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon over recent seasons will serve to sharpen collective minds as PSG aim to overturn the deficit.

"I do think all those things that have happened, us going out, have made us a stronger team," he said.

"The disappointment of getting knocked out in harsh circumstances is hard to take and something we have had to use season-on-season – especially this season – as fuel to go and motivate us to make that next step and get our goal, which is to win the Champions League.

"This season we have a great opportunity to get into the final. Just try to use those emotions of disappointment to motivate us to do better."

Stones frequently repeated the refrain that City must "be who we are" in the second leg – very much maxim for his manager over recent weeks – and believes playing for a draw could be fatal to their chances.

"I think we have to attack the game as we would every other game, definitely go out to win. We've never gone into a game if we're in a good position thinking we need to sit there and defend," the England international added.

"It's a downward spiral if we go into the game like that. We do what we've always done, be who we are and try to win the game. Play as Man City. Everyone knows how we play."

Real Madrid look set to be without Raphael Varane for the Champions League second leg against Chelsea after confirming the defender has an injury to his right abductor muscle.

Varane did not feature in the second half for Madrid in Saturday's 2-0 win over Osasuna, Nacho coming on to take his place.

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane remained hopeful that the France international may be fit to play at Stamford Bridge, yet the club's official medical update on Monday was less optimistic.

Los Blancos announced they will continue to monitor the hip issue and did not indicate an expected return date.

"Following the tests carried out today on our player Raphael Varane by the Real Madrid medical services, he has been diagnosed with an injury to the right abductor muscle. His recovery will be monitored," a short statement from the club read.

Varane played in the first meeting with Chelsea last week, a game that ended in a 1-1 draw as Karim Benzema scored to cancel out Christian Pulisic's 14th-minute opener.

His potential absence will be a blow for Zidane as he plans for the return fixture on Wednesday, though Madrid have prospered without him in the competition already this season.

Nacho partnered Eder Militao in both legs of the quarter-final against Liverpool, the pair helping to keep a clean sheet at Anfield as Madrid progressed 3-1 on aggregate.

However, Zidane could also have Sergio Ramos available again – the club captain returned to training last week, though did not feature in the league fixture against Osasuna and has not played since suffering an injury while on international duty with Spain at the end of March.

Madrid are winless in their previous four away games against English opponents in the Champions League, scoring only two goals across those games.

The reigning LaLiga champions have also never managed a win over Chelsea in European competition, drawing twice with two defeats in the previous meetings between the clubs.

Kylian Mbappe has been named in Paris Saint-Germain's travelling squad for the crucial second leg of their Champions League semi-final at Manchester City.

The France forward was absent for Saturday's 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Lens having sustained a calf injury in the first-leg defeat to Pep Guardiola's side at the Parc des Princes last Wednesday.

Speaking after the Lens game, Pochettino spoke of his hope that Mbappe would be able to travel to Manchester as PSG – runners-up last term – attempt to rescue a tie in which they trail 2-1.

"I'm optimistic for Kylian," Pochettino told reporters. "We assess him day by day. I think he'll be able to play."

While it still remains to be seen if Mbappe will be back, PSG fans may feel reassured by the fact he was named as part of the travelling contingent.

Only Erling Haaland (10) has more goals than Mbappe's eight in this season's Champions League (slightly above an expected goals average of 7.31), while only four players have registered more than his three assists.

Mbappe ranks fourth for shots on target (15), second for 'big' chances scored (seven), fifth for chances created (20) and first for 'big' chances created (eight).

PSG also confirmed Idrissa Gueye would make the trip despite being suspended after being sent off in the first leg.

Inter reached the pinnacle in 2009-10 – Jose Mourinho delivering an unprecedented Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble.

Still to this day, Inter remain the only Italian club to achieve the feat, having claimed the Champions League for the first time in 45 years.

Not since 2010 had Inter got their hands on the Scudetto, while up until 2020, the Nerazzurri had gone eight consecutive Serie A seasons without a top-two finish – ending a campaign as low as ninth in 2012-13.

Step forward Antonio Conte.

Criticism was directed at Inter when former Juventus chief executive Giuseppe Marotta turned to a Bianconeri great and rival to restore the club's fortunes in Milan.

After instant improvement in 2019-20 – a runners-up finish in Serie A to go with a run to the Europa League final and Coppa Italia semis – Conte delivered, breaking Juve's stranglehold on Italian football this season.

Inter's triumph ended a run of nine successive Scudetti for Juve, three of which were won by Conte when he was in charge of the Turin giants from 2011 to 2014.

"Those who played with Inter or have been a coach at Inter realise it's a complicated situation," Conte told Sky Sport Italia amid the celebrations. "You have to understand the various dynamics, at times play along, but never lose your identity and I never lost my identity.

"I think that was appreciated by those who at first had turned their noses up at me because of my past. I was brought to Inter in order to bring it back to victory within three years and I did that."

While there are four rounds remaining, Inter will be starting to plan for 2021-22 and as a sea of blue and black shirts flood the Milan streets, what is next for Conte and his team?


Convince Conte about Inter's future

Conte earned his fourth Serie A title this season – only five other coaches in league history have managed at least four.

The former Italy boss is only the second coach in Serie A history to win a Scudetto with both Inter and Juve, joining Giovanni Trapattoni, though his greatest achievement might just be the transformation of Christian Eriksen from flop headed for an exit to the face of Inter's XI.

Conte ended Inter's 11-year drought and while many involved with the Nerazzurri hope it is the start of a winning cycle, his future at San Siro remains uncertain.

The 51-year-old has spoken out against the club's hierarchy previously, particularly at the end of last season amid serious concerns he would be resign or be sacked.

His position is once again in the spotlight as he reportedly plans to meet with Inter president Steven Zhang.

Suning Holdings Group owns Inter after the Chinese company acquired a majority stake in the club in June 2016, but rumours persist that a sale could happen due to the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Contracted until the end of next season, Conte – never one to shy away from his opinions – is believed to want clarity over Suning's position and whether he will be able to strengthen his squad in the transfer window.

"We certainly focused on the present, as this was too important to get it done and bring Inter back to winning the Scudetto after so many years out," Conte, who was also criticised for his style of football, told Sky Sport Italia on Sunday.

"The president has arrived now, there are four games left. As I have more experience, I now also want to enjoy this moment, because in the past I got myself caught up in other problems and didn't really enjoy it enough.

"There will be time to talk together, to understand the situation, try to organise ourselves and see what comes out of it. However, at the moment, I want to enjoy this with the players, the club, the fans and everyone, because we all earned this. I don't want anyone to disturb what we achieved."

While Marotta is hopeful over Conte's future, it remains to be seen whether he will be back to defend Inter's crown.


Hold onto Lukaku

Inter's precarious financial position could have an impact on Conte's trusted talisman – Lukaku.

Like Conte, Lukaku arrived at Inter amid criticism and doubts over his ability to spearhead the club's title charge. Forking out a club-record fee to prise the Belgian star from Manchester United in 2019 did little to alleviate expectations.

Lukaku scored 34 goals in his debut season at San Siro, 23 of those coming in Serie A. The 27-year-old has well and truly silenced his critics again this term with 21 goals and 10 assists in the league thus far.

Not since his final season at Everton has Lukaku attempted or completed more dribbles (97 and 52 in 2020-21), meaning he is back facing the goal again, involved in 13 counter-attacks – his most since 2014-15. He also has 10 assists for the first time.

Yet Lukaku is still taking the largest share of his touches in the box to date (18.3 per cent), leading to a career-high 35 big chances.

From such positions, he can afford to squander 17 big chances and net only 16 non-penalty goals from efforts worth 16.8 xG, another new benchmark.

Lukaku is now scoring with a staggering 23.6 per cent of his shots – making him the first Serie A player since 2004-05 to tally 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season.

His exploits reportedly have Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City queuing up to exploit Inter's economic situation and sign their prized asset.

Refusing to cash in on Lukaku could go a long way in convincing Conte and shaping Inter's future for years to come.

 

Make a splash in Champions League

Inter have built a strong side under Conte – Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Stefano Sensi, Ashley Young, Aleksandar Kolarov and Matteo Darmian all joining the quest for silverware.

But for all of Inter's success this season, their Champions League campaign left a sour taste.

Inter – Europa League finalists in 2019-20 – looked on track to reach the Champions League last 16 in a group featuring Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk. Instead the 2009-10 winners finished bottom. Conte's Inter also failed to make it out of the group last season, taking a backseat to Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

While Inter's early Champions League exit aided their Scudetto charge this term, the club and their fans are craving European delight.

Only twice since Mourinho's treble-winning campaign – before a six-season Champions League absence – have Inter made it out of the group stage of Europe's elite club competition.

Inter legend Walter Zenga – regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time having amassed 473 appearances for the Italian powerhouse – recently told Stats Perform News: "In Europe you play different. In the Champions League you play totally different, in the Champions League it looks like no tactics, only who is stronger.

"We are thinking about tactics all the time [in Italy] and this is our mentality. If you see the game of the Italian league, it is a very strong game, if you think that is boring, in the stands it is not boring because if you are involved, you have to take an aspirin after the game because it's so strong. If you see the Spanish league, it looks like they play slow, but when you play against the Spanish teams, [sometimes] you don't touch the ball because you don't know where they are. 

"In Germany or in France, it is less interesting the season, then when you play against them in in Champions League, you have to make a big effort because you're thinking, 'Oh in Germany there are only two teams, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, it is not competitive championship' and then when you play against them, you see it is so strong.

"So it's a question about the mentality and everything. To win in Europe in my opinion, you have to play to win. And probably you find either the clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, like this team that if you read the line-up specially at the top… the talent and the quality, class is the difference in Europe. I don't know what is in the mind of Conte or of the management of Inter, but in Europe, I think that you need the world-class players."


Time to farewell Handanovic?

With four games remaining, Inter – 13 points clear atop the table – have matched their points (82) and clean sheets (14) totals for the whole of last season, when they finished a point behind Juventus.

Inter have the stingiest defence in the league, having only conceded 29 goals in 34 matches so far.

Samir Handanovic – a loyal Inter servant – has contributed greatly with 14 clean sheets but the long-serving goalkeeper appears on the decline.

Errors have crept into Handanovic's game during the backend of this season. The 36-year-old, who joined from Udinese in 2012, has three errors leading to goals, compared to just one last term.

Among the goalkeepers for the top seven clubs in the league in 2020-21, only Roma's Pau Lopez recorded more (four). For comparison, Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma (two) and Juventus' Wojciech Szczesny (one) are next on the list – Napoli's David Ospina, Lazio shot-stopper Pepe Reina, Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini and reported Inter target Juan Musso of Udinese have none to their name.

Among that same list, Handanovic has conceded the highest number of goals outside of the penalty area (five), while his three dropped shots are only exceeded by Donnarumma and Reina (both four). In 2019-20, Handanovic finished with only three goals conceded outside the box and three drops.

Musso has emerged as a strong option for Inter and if they want to take the next step in Europe while fending off a domestic challenge, it may be time to move on from Handanovic.

An elated Antonio Conte claimed Inter's Champions League exit was a significant moment in their season as he celebrated winning the Serie A title.

Atalanta's 1-1 draw with Sassuolo on Sunday meant the Nerazzurri were crowned champions of Italy for the first time since Jose Mourinho's treble-winning side in 2009-10.

It also ended a run of nine consecutive Scudetti for Juventus, three of which were won by Conte when he was in charge from 2011 to 2014.

With four games remaining, Conte's men have matched their points (82) and clean sheets (14) totals for the whole of last season, when they finished a point behind the Bianconeri.

They are 13 points clear at the top and have only lost twice in all competitions since the turn of the year.

Their form in 2021 looks all-the-more impressive considering they endured a run of two wins in 10 games in all competitions in October and November, while December saw them crash out of Europe after one win from six games in their Champions League group.

Conte felt criticism of Inter's European form was unjust and thinks that disappointment strengthened his side's resolve in their Scudetto challenge.

Speaking to Rai and Sky Sport Italia, he said: "I think the key moment was in the week we exited the Champions League, when criticism rained down on us in perhaps an exaggerated way.

"It wasn't easy. We had a group of guys who weren't used to winning. We did well to compact ourselves and take criticism to become even stronger.

"The best thing that happened to me is to have found a group that trusted me and my leadership implicitly. The players' growth has led to this result.

"They asked me what Inter needed; I replied that every player must raise the bar, not only from a footballing point of view, but also from a mental point of view.

"The boys are no longer players who take part, but who have won.

"I put it among the most important successes of my career. It was difficult because it was not an easy choice for me to come to Inter, during a time when the team was certainly not competitive or had the resources to achieve something important.

"Plus, I was going to a club who are rivals with Juventus, where I played for many years, and who were dominating the league. There were many negative situations that I was going into.

"Instead, I eagerly accepted the challenge and I think the hard work repaid all those sacrifices."

Conte will take his Inter to face old club Juve on May 15, where he intends to put on something of a show even though their season is effectively over.

"It will be a match where, beyond the table, we want to do our best. We managed to win with four games to spare, but we'll still go there to play for the victory," he said.

"It's always a pleasure for me to enter the [Allianz] Stadium. Now, I'm learning how to do it as an opponent.

"Having won with four games left is testament to the good work everyone has done. We want to continue to do well, but it's right to give more room to those who have played less.

"We'll try to do our best until the end. They know the mentality I expect from them."

Raphael Varane only has a minor injury, according to Zinedine Zidane, who is hoping the centre-back will be fit to face Chelsea in midweek.

Varane was taken off at half-time against Osasuna on Saturday, with Madrid going on to win 2-0 thanks to late goals from Eder Militao and Casemiro.

The victory took Madrid back to within two points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who beat Elche earlier on.

With Los Blancos facing fourth-placed Sevilla next week, and Barca hosting Atleti, the title race is firmly in the balance heading into the final few games of the campaign.

However, Varane's substitution was a cause for concern. Prior to facing Sevilla, Madrid will visit Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea on Wednesday, with their Champions League semi-final tie level at 1-1 after a tightly contested first leg.

Zidane is hopeful Varane's issue will not keep him out for long.

"I do not know, we have to wait," he told reporters. "He has told me that it is a small thing. I hope that is the case."

Madrid attempted 13 shots in the opening 45 minutes against Osasuna, more than they have managed in any other first half of a game this season in all competitions, though it took them until the 76th minute to find an opening – Isco's corner headed in by Militao for the centre-back's first LaLiga goal.

Casemiro's inadvertent finish subsequently put Madrid 2-0 up with 10 minutes remaining, and Zidane was pleased with the patience his team showed to make it 11 successive home wins against Osasuna in LaLiga – having last dropped points in this fixture when held 1-1 in December 2005.

"Happy with today's game, the three points. I am happy for the effort my players have made," Zidane added.

"In the first half we had four or five chances and we didn't score, it's a bit frustrating for them. At half-time I said [a goal] was going to arrive. With patience and with play.

"I was very happy for them, they are suffering there and when they score, you know it is a liberation."

Kylian Mbappe should be fit to face Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final second leg, Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino says.

The France star sat out the 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Lens on Saturday after sustaining a calf injury in the first-leg loss to Pep Guardiola's side this week.

In his absence, Neymar and Marquinhos secured a narrow win for the champions to put pressure back on title rivals Lille and give PSG a morale boost ahead of game against City on Tuesday.

Pochettino could offer no guarantees over Mbappe's availability after the match, but he hopes to have the forward at his disposal.

"I'm optimistic for Kylian," Pochettino told reporters. "We assess him day by day. I think he'll be able to play."

The win moved PSG two points clear at the top of the table, with three games remaining, ahead of Lille's clash with Nice.

Pochettino admired his players' battling qualities as they held off European-chasing Lens, who got a goal back through Ignatius Ganago with half an hour remaining.

"It was a very difficult match. Lens play really good football. I really like their game – we suffered," Pochettino said.

"We deserved to win. We had to work hard to get the victory.

"We'll see tomorrow the state of the players' condition. The calendar is crazy, especially in these circumstances. We'll wait until the last moment to make the best decision."

Pochettino admitted it had been tough to recover from their defeat to City, particularly after an impressive first-half performance.

They had nine shots to City's four in the opening 45 minutes and deservedly led through Marquinhos' header, but second-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez put the visitors in the driving seat.

Given that disappointment, Pochettino was thrilled with the level of fitness and attitude displayed against Lens.

"I liked my team's character," he said. "I didn't see my team tired in the second half. They looked good physically.

"The night after City was difficult. Against [City], we played our best 45 minutes of the past four months. It wasn't easy."

Pep Guardiola conceded Manchester City can get ready to pop the champagne corks, with their third Premier League title in four seasons "already there" after a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

City are one victory away from an unassailable lead and could be champions by the end of the weekend if Liverpool beat Manchester United on Sunday.

Guardiola does not care if his team are crowned without being on the field, telling a post-match news conference he simply wanted the title "as soon as possible" after second half goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres dispatched Palace.

"We can start to think about putting it in the fridge. Not yet, but we can put it in the fridge," he told BT Sport, before discussing his football-watching plans for Sunday – juggling preparation for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final showdown against Paris Saint Germain with keeping an eye on events at Old Trafford.

"It's [about] PSG right now. We start to see the game we played there [a 2-1 win on Wednesday] and what we have to do, but I will take a look [at United v Liverpool], yeah.

"The Premier League is already there, it is in our hands. We need one more victory or two points

"Now there is a game where we need to give absolutely everything to reach the final."

Aguero has been a marginal figure during his final season at City, grappling with form and fitness issues.

But his opening strike at Palace - a fabulous touch and half-volleyed finish from Benjamin Mendy's low cross – showed the value he could still have over the closing weeks of his City career.

"I'm incredibly delighted he is back. He was many, many times injured," Guardiola told reporters.

"In the last weeks he trained really well and he is another weapon that we have on Tuesday for our semi-final."

 

Aguero is now one behind Wayne Rooney's single-club record of 183 Premier League goals and Guardiola paid a glowing tribute to the 32-year-old, who is City's all-time leading goalscorer.

"He's an absolutely top legend, extraordinary, the most humble and nicest human being. That is not easy to find," he said.

"That's why I love him as a man. Another player in his situation, he could create conflict, he would create a difficult situation.

"When one guy is beloved, like he is by all our fans, it is not just for the scoring 1,000 million goals, that is the truth. It is because he has something that the people realise, that you cannot hide away, as a person.

"This season, we took a decision, a difficult one - one of the toughest ones I took, especially because he was injured a long time. This club, next season need to make another step and maintain this level for a longer time.

"But what he has done in this club remains, will remain forever and we want to finish the best way as possible.

"He's going to help us in the Champions League [and] is going to help us in the Premier League to finish it."

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