Edwin van der Sar has compared Matthijs de Ligt to Cristiano Ronaldo, claiming they share a similar mentality to be among the world's best.

De Ligt starred in the youthful Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals last season before joining Ronaldo at Serie A giants Juventus.

Van der Sar played a pivotal part in developing Erik ten Hag's team in his role as Ajax CEO, with prospects such as Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek graduating through the club's famous youth system.

Netherlands international De Ligt has turned in some indifferent performances since moving to Turin and was at fault for Northern Ireland's goal against the Oranje in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday, but Van der Sar has no concerns over the defender's ability to adapt.

"He had been at Ajax all his life," Van der Sar told ESPN. "So to step away, move with your girlfriend and the family to a different city in Italy, he must learn a new language and get to know his team-mates.

"His mentality, that of someone who always tries to improve, makes him want to be the best defender in the world. And I've seen that with a few players, one of them is playing for his team, Cristiano Ronaldo.

"He has the same desire and hunger as De Ligt. Matthijs is only [20 years old]. He was fantastic for us at Ajax, our rock and our captain."

Despite De Ligt's error, Netherlands went on to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 to move top of Group C.

Their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign continues on Sunday as the Nations League runners-up travel to Belarus.

Another day, another rumour about Christian Eriksen.

The soon-to-be free agent Eriksen wants a new challenge after flagging his intent during the previous transfer window.

A move to LaLiga appeals and a Spanish giant from the capital are reportedly ready to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID EYE ERIKSEN 

AS and Marca claim Real Madrid are ready to make a move for Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen in January.

Eriksen is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Spurs star has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Inter.

However, Madrid are reportedly unwilling to wait until season's end as they look to strengthen their midfield.

ROUND-UP

Inter are eyeing Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, says FC Inter News. Matic has found himself out of favour under United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and a switch to Serie A could be on the cards for the Serbia international, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

- According to Calciomercato, Serie A champions Juventus are looking to sign Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri. The Italy international worked with Maurizio Sarri during the former Chelsea boss' time at Stamford Bridge.

Massimiliano Allegri has handed United a "deadline" for him to be given the job at Old Trafford, says La Gazzetta dello Sport. Solskjaer is under growing pressure, with the Red Devils enduring a difficult season and former Juventus boss Allegri has emerged as a possible replacement.

- Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil fears he has played his last game for the Gunners, according to the Mirror. Ozil has struggled to establish himself since Unai Emery's arrival and the former Germany international has been linked to MLS outfit DC United and Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

- Le10Sport claims former Chile, Sevilla and Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is on the shortlist to fill the Lyon vacancy following Sylvinho's sacking. Sampaoli is in charge of Brazilian side Santos.

- Gianluca Di Marzio reports Claudio Ranieri is in the mix to take over at Sampdoria, who sacked Eusebio Di Francesco prior to the international break. Ranieri – who sensationally led Leicester City to Premier League glory in 2015-16 – last oversaw Roma on a temporary basis last term. Ex-AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso reportedly turned down the job.

- Manchester United are among the admirers of rising Mexico star Sebastian Cordova, reports Record. The 22-year-old America playmaker made his international debut for El Tri last week. The attacking third and midfield are areas of concern for United, who have also been linked to Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic.

Emre Can said he is unhappy at Serie A champions Juventus as the Germany international struggles for game time in Turin.

Can has only made three substitute Serie A appearances for Juventus after being left out of the club's Champions League squad this season.

The 25-year-old midfielder was a 71st-minute substitute against Inter last week, taking his tally to just 78 league minutes in 2019-20 under head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Can did manage to complete the full match in Germany's 2-2 friendly draw with Argentina on Wednesday and he told reporters: "I'm not happy [at Juventus] right now. I don't play much at the moment.

"Last season I played a lot. Especially in important games for Juventus. And I also played well there.

"I haven't had a chance this season. But now I think, when I come back to the club, I will get chances again.

"I am definitely grateful to Joachim Low. Because I didn't play much in the club and he invited me anyway.

"Nevertheless, he gave me the chance. That's why I was simply happy that I played again."

Can and Germany are back in action on Sunday, when they travel to Estonia for their Euro 2020 qualifier.

 

 

European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli believes the Champions League needs to change because it has become predictable.

Proposals for a revamp to European club football's flagship competition, bringing in a promotion and relegation system, were reportedly shelved last month amid criticism and fears of a closed competition developing.

But Agnelli, who is also chairman of Juventus, insists there is no desire to move towards an effective European "super league", even if he feels the Champions League current format is flawed.

"We started thinking, some months ago, about what is it that we want within the ECA. What are the principles we want to go by?" he said when addressing the Leaders Sport Business Summit at Twickenham on Tuesday.

"When I say 'we', I mean representatives from Poland, Greece, Finland, Portugal and also representatives from the big leagues.

"What we felt was, if we want to create a platform that allows for all clubs to succeed on and off the pitch, more European football is good for the game. Possibly the introduction of a relegation system to deliver sporting dynamism across Europe.

"If we think about the group stage of the Champions League, all of us can guess 15 out of 16 who will qualify for the last 16. The first two teams in each group of the Champions League are probably written. We want to find more relevant games.

"Much has been said about wanting to kill domestic leagues. No - we want to maintain symbiosis with the leagues. We absolutely agree that champions should have access to international competitions."

Agnelli believes football is now vying for attention against non-traditional competitors, heightening to need for European club football to capture the imagination.

"We will now have to tackle a shift in consumer behaviour. We're looking at 'Generation Z', the new digital natives who are turning into adulthood," he said.

"We have to look at what is the behaviour of 'Generation Z'. We should seriously start to think that the competitors are not clubs next door but League of Legends, e-sports, Fortnite. I think those are going to be the ones who are going to be our competitors going forward.

"It is fair to say and assume that, in the quarter-finals of the two competitions [Champions League and Europa League] you have six to seven of eight clubs that come from the big five leagues. That is mainly thanks to the economic advantage they have."

One of clubs who appear to have benefitted most from such competitive advantage are Agnelli's own, with Juve chasing a ninth consecutive Serie A title this season.

Maurizio Sarri's side moved to the summit on Sunday with an impressive 2-1 win at nearest rivals Inter.

"I think [Inter] are challengers. It was a good game on Sunday. It was a solid game," Agnelli added.

"It is a domestic league. They are true in their values, when you have a stronger team it comes out over 38 games. The only exception is the Premier League, which is not as certain as in other countries.

"Bayern Munich Juventus, PSG, a duopoly in Spain with Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is an element of why reform should be put in place [in European competitions].

"I am happy with that [domination for Juventus], I won't complain too much about it. But is this what a fan wants to see? Total domestic domination. You will find five out of eight teams winning the big five that are the usual suspects in Europe."

Paulo Dybala is delighted to be part of a vibrant Juventus attack under Maurizio Sarri after it looked like he could be on his way out of the club.

Dybala starred in Sunday's 2-1 win over Inter at San Siro, opening the scoring as the reigning champions returned to a familiar position at the top of Serie A.

It appeared unlikely that the Argentina forward would have such a prominent role after a close season when he was linked to Manchester United, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain.

"I have not experienced an easy summer," the 25-year-old told Tuttosport. "Obviously hearing your name with every team you don't want to go to is not a nice thing, but this is football.

"Before the market started I had already done an interview in which I said I wanted to stay in Turin, then I never spoke again, not even at the Copa America. 

"I think it's more important to talk on the field, with facts. You never know how the market goes until the last day, but I wanted to stay here, I wanted to continue my career at Juventus. 

"I think I can still give so much to this shirt and I'm very happy with what I showed against Inter."

Dybala lined up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo up front in the Derby d'Italia, with Federico Bernardeschi behind them at the tip of a midfield diamond – a role that has also been filled by Aaron Ramsey during recent outings.

Gonzalo Higuain then came off the bench to score the winner and Dybala reported life is good under Sarri for Juve's assortment of attackers – arguably more so than under Massimiliano Allegri.

"They are different as a way of playing and you can already see that," he added.

"With Allegri we have done many things, but I think Sarri is a little more offensive and you can already see that he plays more [offensively] than Allegri's idea.

"To prove it [can be successful], we have to wait for what will happen. With Sarri it is so offensive, so it's easier for us attackers."

Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt laughed off rumours of being put on a low-carbohydrate diet at the request of head coach Maurizio Sarri.

De Ligt has endured a tricky start to life at Serie A champions Juve since his €75million arrival from Eredivisie holders Ajax in the off-season.

The 20-year-old has shown signs of improvement in Turin, where the Netherlands centre-back has started to form a promising partnership with veteran Leonardo Bonucci following Giorgio Chiellini's serious knee injury.

De Ligt was asked about speculation that Sarri put him on a special diet amid fears over his weight and he told Nu.nl: "It really is a wild story.

"It doesn't surprise me anymore. Sometimes I think I had a decent game, but apparently there's something wrong after all. But those are only opinions. It's important to know what I do well and what went wrong – and I know that well.

"Every new player should get the time to adapt to the team. Juventus had two great defenders already with Chiellini and Bonucci. The plan was to let me enter the team slowly, but it worked out differently. Obviously it's great that I get to play already, but you get thrown in at the deep end right away. That's a great challenge for me.

"The most important lesson I have learned so far at Juventus is that you need self-confidence. In the beginning, I noticed I was way too concerned about not making mistakes and that's exactly what you shouldn't do. I never played that way and in my first weeks I was too focused on that.

"After that game against Atletico Madrid [in the Champions League] I called myself to order, in a way. I wanted to play with confidence again. Maybe still some things will go wrong, but at least I know for sure things are better than before. Since then I have an upward trend.

"The critiques you get after the game are part of the deal. Unfortunately that's the life of a defender. You're balancing on such a thin line of playing good or bad. Of course I'd rather not give away a penalty kick, but in the end we won [against Inter] and that's what matters."

Ronald Koeman says Matthijs de Ligt needs to adapt to a new way of defending with Juventus.

The centre-back joined the Serie A champions in July for an initial fee of €75million after a standout season with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax.

He endured a tough debut in Italy's top flight in Juve's dramatic 4-3 win over Napoli but has shown some encouraging signs of a blossoming partnership with Leonardo Bonucci in recent weeks.

Koeman thinks the 20-year-old still needs to take lessons from the "Italian school" of defending, but the Netherlands boss is not surprised to see a player so young still have room for improvement.

"I'm always a big advocate for adapting to your new team, your new country and your new team-mates," Koeman told reporters. "I think he really does need to adapt to a new way of defending, because it's different from the way he played at Ajax. Maybe that's the 'Italian school'.

"Bonucci said the same: he also needs to adapt to this kind of zonal marking [under head coach Maurizio Sarri] instead of the way they defended under [Massimiliano] Allegri. I think Matthijs needs time. But he's already so good at this age. It would be weird if he didn't have to learn anymore.

"Just before the last international break, there was lots of criticism, but he still played really well with the national team. I think this is a very nice environment for him. But with time, I think he'll learn how to adapt to his new position at Juventus as well. I think he can reach a very high level both in our team and at Juventus."

De Ligt's focus for now is on helping Netherlands in their bid to qualify for Euro 2020.

Oranje meet Northern Ireland and Belarus in the international break and will look to close the three-point gap to leaders Germany at the top of Group C.

Koeman is confident in his side's chances of progressing as he considers their squad, particularly their attack, a rival for the world's finest teams.

"I think we have a squad that is equal to the squads of other countries - and I'm talking about the best countries in the world," he said.

"That's also thanks to the development of our attacking players and upcoming talents that aren't with the squad yet. They are so creative, dynamic and quick that they make us more dangerous offensively.

"In the past, that's where we had some problems. But that's also one of the reasons why we selected so many attackers [seven] and only five midfielders instead of six and more attackers. We have more choice than ever before."

Netherlands host Northern Ireland, who are also three points ahead of them, on Thursday before facing Belarus three days later.

Inter's 100 per cent start to the Serie A season came to a crashing halt on Sunday as champions Juventus returned to the top of the table with a significant win at San Siro.

Gonzalo Higuain's late strike sealed a 2-1 win for Maurizio Sarri's side as they inflicted a first domestic defeat on Antonio Conte since he joined the Nerazzurri ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

There is a two-week break now for international action before the sides return to domestic duties on the weekend of October 19/20.

Here, Omnisport predicts how both clubs could fare in their first five fixtures upon the resumption of Serie A and how the table might look come mid-November.

 

FAVOURABLE RUN FOR CONTE'S MEN

Predictions for next five fixtures:

- Sassuolo 0-3 Inter

- Inter 2-1 Parma

- Brescia 0-2 Inter

- Bologna 1-3 Inter

- Inter 3-0 Hellas Verona

Inter will be targeting a maximum points return from their five games and there is little reason they cannot achieve that, given the mediocrity of their opponents. They do not face a team that is currently positioned higher than 10th, which should have Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez licking their lips.

Given three of the games are away from home, Conte might remain cautious but there is a great chance to crank up the pressure on Juve.

TRICKY DOUBLE-HEADER AWAITS CHAMPIONS

Juventus 3-1 Bologna

Lecce 0-2 Juventus

Juventus 3-0 Genoa

Torino 1-1 Juventus

Juventus 2-2 AC Milan

Like Inter, Juventus take on a string of sides who have started the season in less than stellar fashion. They should have few problems in their first three games, given two of those sides currently languish in the relegation zone, but it is the games against Torino and AC Milan that could prove tricky.

With speculation mounting that Marco Giampaolo could lose his job at Milan, the Rossoneri might well be under new leadership by the time that fixture rolls around, while Torino will be fired up to get one over on their city rivals. Those factors could be enough to see Sarri's side drop points and hand the title advantage to Inter. 

If our predictions are correct, Inter will hold a three-point lead over Juve by the middle of November. Clearly, the race for the title will be far from over but it might just allow Conte and his men to dream about ending the Bianconeri's eight-year stranglehold on the scudetto.

Marco Giampaolo's time at AC Milan could already be over and the Serie A giants are considering replacements.

Milan overcame Genoa for their third win in seven league games this season, but they are still struggling in 13th in the table.

Giampaolo's stint at the helm at San Siro may be over already after just over three months in charge.

 

TOP STORY – MILAN CONSIDER GIAMPAOLO'S FUTURE WITH PIOLI, SPALLETTI FAVOURITES

Milan are leaning towards sacking Giampaolo despite the win over Genoa, according to CalcioMercato.

SempreMilan reports the club almost sacked Giampaolo at half-time, when the side were trailing before fighting back.

According to Sky Sport, former Inter coaches Stefano Pioli and Luciano Spalletti are favourites for the Milan job.

 

ROUND-UP

- Looking to strengthen in January, Manchester United sent scouts to watch Lyon forward Moussa Dembele against Saint-Etienne on Sunday, according to the Daily Mail. Dembele came off the bench for struggling Lyon in the 1-0 loss.

- Juventus and Inter look set to battle for the Serie A title and they could be fighting elsewhere too. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Italian giants are set to fight to sign Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa and Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali.

- Leicester City are looking for a replacement for Ben Chilwell as they prepare for clubs to bid for the left-back, according to The Sun, which links Manchester City and Chelsea with £50million moves for the England international.

- Out to improve their defence, Arsenal are targeting Wolves centre-back Willy Boly, according to The Sun. A France youth international, Boly joined Wolves from Porto, initially on loan before the move was made permanent last year.

- Newcastle United could make a move for Nottingham Forest centre-back Joe Worrall in January, The Sun reports. Worrall, 22, is coming out of contract at season's end and the Premier League club could land him on the cheap in early 2020.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte said star striker Romelu Lukaku must train more to be in great shape due to his physique.

Lukaku experienced a quiet game as Inter suffered a 2-1 loss to Serie A rivals Juventus in the Derby d'Italia at San Siro on Sunday.

A club-record signing from Manchester United before the transfer window shut, Lukaku returned to the line-up after missing Wednesday's Champions League defeat against Barcelona due to a muscular problem.

Asked about Lukaku, Conte told reporters: "Romelu is definitely a player that must train more, because being a player with a massive body he needs to train, to play, to be in great shape.

"In this beginning of the season he had this back issue, now he's been dealing with this other quadricep issue since the game against Lazio.

"But I think he gave everything, it's inevitable that against Barcelona we didn't have Lukaku and it was important to have him. And we didn't have him. 

"However, Romelu as well was very committed today, he tried to do his best, and now let's hope he can leave these little issues behind him and be at his 100 per cent."

Lukaku has scored three goals for Inter since arriving from United for a fee understood to be €80million (£73m) in August.

Cristiano Ronaldo revelled in Juventus' victory over rivals Inter as the Serie A champions moved back to the top of the Serie A table.

Juventus leapfrogged Inter at the top with a thrilling 2-1 win in the Derby d'Italia at San Siro on Sunday.

Goals from Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain saw Juve move a point clear of Inter, who saw their perfect start to the league season snapped by the Bianconeri.

Ronaldo, who rattled the crossbar and had a goal ruled out for offside, used Instagram to celebrate Juve's fourth consecutive league victory.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner wrote: "Very strong performance by the team today!

"Great feeling to be on the top of the table again! #finoallafine #forzajuve #liveahead."

A fine fourth-minute goal from Dybala put Juve ahead before Lautaro Martinez equalised via the penalty spot 14 minutes later.

However, Higuain had the final say after coming off the bench and scoring the winner with 10 minutes remaining in Milan.

Juve now top the table heading into the international break, with Maurizio Sarri's men returning to action against Bologna on October 19.

Antonio Conte insisted Inter could not be compared to Juventus after a 2-1 loss in the Derby d'Italia on Sunday.

Paulo Dybala's opener was cancelled out by Lautaro Martinez's 18th-minute penalty at San Siro, but Gonzalo Higuain scored a late winner for Juve.

It ended Inter's perfect start to the Serie A season and saw eight-time reigning champions Juve return to the top.

Despite Inter's bright start, Conte said his growing team should not be compared to Juventus.

"We could certainly have done a lot better, even in the two goals we conceded in Barcelona [in the Champions League] we could have done a lot better," he told Sky Sport.

"I repeat that this is a path of growth with young people who are working hard at the level of experience and of all the situations at the moment. We need to work and there are no shortcuts.

"We must not compare ourselves to Juventus, they are of another category from all points of view. We started working to reduce an important gap."

The result means Juve are the only unbeaten team left in Serie A, holding a one-point lead going into the international break.

Asked about the performances of his front two of Martinez and Romelu Lukaku, Conte felt the duo could have done more.

"Surely in the finalisation we could do something better, but the team arrived, it produced," he said.

"The statistics speak of a very balanced challenge, although the two teams are not on paper."

Maurizio Sarri expressed his pleasure with the way Juventus' players have adapted to his style of play but demanded even more following Sunday's 2-1 victory against Serie A rivals Inter.

Juve made it five consecutive wins and claimed their biggest result yet under head coach Sarri after triumphing in the Derby d'Italia to snap Inter's perfect start to the season.

Lautaro Martinez equalised from the penalty spot at San Siro after Paulo Dybala had justified his selection by firing the visitors into a fourth-minute lead, but Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to snatch a vital victory for Juve 10 minutes from time.

However, Sarri played down the significance of the victory early in the season – which saw Juve leapfrog Inter atop the table – and said there is still more to come from his players.

"I feel we can still improve a great deal more. It's a gradual process," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The team has strong individuals and so much strength in depth. It means at the moment we can get results, even if we are not playing at 100 per cent.

"Overtaking at the top means little right now. The most significant element is that we played well, with character and determination against a side that had won every game so far.

"We started well and had the right approach in a fiery atmosphere, so that's a good sign."

Matthijs de Ligt gave away the penalty for Inter's equaliser in the top-of-the-table showdown – the young Juve defender blocking Nicolo Barella's cross with a raised arm.

Sarri accepted De Ligt has struggled at times since arriving from Dutch champions Ajax during the close season, not helped by a long-term injury sustained by Giorgio Chiellini in the opening month of the campaign.

"De Ligt doesn't speak Italian well yet, but he is adapting very quickly to our style of football, our type of defending and has enormous potential, but he is still adapting and that brings difficulties," he said.

"Giorgio Chiellini's injury forced us to rush the introduction of this lad and a more gradual process would probably have helped him."

Match-winner Gonzalo Higuain understands why Maurizio Sarri dropped him for Sunday's crucial Serie A clash with Inter and is glad to have made a telling impact from the bench in Juventus' 2-1 victory.

The 31-year-old was brought on just after the hour at San Siro after losing his place in the starting line-up to Paulo Dybala, who justified his selection for the top-of-the-table showdown by brilliantly opening the scoring in the fourth minute.

Lautaro Martinez levelled up from the penalty spot but Higuain proved to be the hero for Juve as he fired a low finish past Samir Handanovic to snatch three vital points late on.

Asked how he felt about being overlooked for a starting spot, Higuain told Sky Sport Italia: "The coach makes his decisions. Paulo had been doing well recently, so it was understandable. 

"All I can do is be ready to help the team when I come on and fortunately I managed it."

Juventus leapfrogged their opponents into top spot after ending the erstwhile leaders' perfect start under Antonio Conte.

"It was a great game from us," Higuain said. "Inter were the most solid side in the league, they had won six out of six.

"We played with great character and determination. I am glad we took it home.

"This is a great start to the season, but it’s still early and we want to fight on all fronts."

Inter enter the two-week break on the back of successive defeats, Conte's men having let slip a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 against Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Centre-back Milan Skriniar played a full part in both matches and admits there are improvements to be made.

"It has been a mixed week because we played not badly in Barcelona and here tonight too," he said. "We kept the ball and created chances, but were unable to score the goals.

"Juve are a strong side, we all knew that. We have a lot to improve and that's the beauty of it - we are constantly learning and developing.

"I think we need to be more aggressive in our defending around the penalty area, as Barcelona were very dangerous there too with their passes. We need to get closer to the forwards."

The serial winner looking to topple the dynasty he established versus the idealist who must show he can string together results as he does cigarettes. No two men could ever be bigger than Inter versus Juventus, but Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and their sharply contrasting ideologies loomed large over the latest instalment of this historic clash.

Inter's 100 per cent start in Serie A and Juve's comparatively tentative first steps under Sarri – alongside the respective esteem in which each coach was held while at Chelsea – meant the script felt somewhat set as the teams emerged at an expectant San Siro.

Juventus' flying start suggested otherwise, as they followed Sarri's way line by line and to the syllable.

Inter answered in kind – Diego Godin splattering his old Madrid derby foe Cristiano Ronaldo on the turf in a case of Sarrismo meeting machismo – but insufficiently, as Miralem Pjanic's immaculate pass carved enough space for Paulo Dybala to lash a shot through Samir Handanovic's hands.

Ronaldo was alternately playing to the gallery and the gameplan, and the deft footwork that ended with him planting an effort against the crossbar cut an uncomfortable contrast with the hosts' most convincing early foray, when Romelu Lukaku ploughed towards Leonardo Bonucci in a straight line and was dispossessed.

Wojciech Szczesny passing a ball out for a throw-in near his own byline in the 13th minute showed a Bianconeri still coming to terms with Sarri's preferred means of building play. Alex Sandro was booked for trying to delay the restart and Inter seized on momentary uncertainty to apply judicious pressure.

It was typical of a Conte team, clinically sensing their moment. His wing-backs pushed on, Matthijs de Ligt headed a Danilo D'Ambrosio delivery away under pressure, but erred the next time he was called upon by Nicolo Barella at the near post.

Lautaro Martinez made himself enough of a nuisance for De Ligt to handball. Up stepped the Argentina striker to make it 1-1. By the time he got the better of Bonucci to test Szczesny in the 28th minute, Inter were in the ascendancy.

Juve needed to settle back into their work, with some lovely touches from Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Ronaldo played out before an uncompromising and unmoving back five.

Makeshift full-back Juan Cuadrado started their next attack with an audacious pass around Martinez near his own goal-line. Conte's men stood off and Sarri's side were rewarded for trusting their method.

The Bianconeri were back on the front foot and another delicious Pjanic pass met a Dybala lay-off. Ronaldo finished and tore off inimitably, only for VAR to fractionally and cruelly rule against his strike partner.

A touchline skirmish at the interval – "brawl" would be overstating the case – seemed to be instigated by Inter, although De Ligt's crunching challenge on Martinez early in the second half showed Juve were not here to be pushed around while they looked pretty.

Following Pjanic's prompting it was Khedria's turn, in a midfield alliance that sometimes purred like the Jorginho and Allan pairing under Sarri at Napoli, to unpick Inter. Dybala was onside this time, but Handanovic was out sharply.

For all that, the visitors had not managed to shake the Nerazzurri and a live Conte team is a dangerous one. Lukaku was enduring one of his clumsier outings but drove at De Ligt to force an inch-perfect challenge in the area before tumbling under Bonucci's attentions and appealing in vain for a penalty.

De Ligt's mixed showing continued when he turned his back on a drive from substitute Matias Vecino, deflecting it against the post with Szczesny rooted.

Inter were again rumbling their way on top, but Sarri showed there was room for pragmatism within the high-spec masterplan. On came Emre Can for Dybala to add some midfield ballast before his other two replacements – Rodrigo Bentancur and Gonzalo Higuain – combined to send Juventus back to the top of the table.

Like Sarri, Higuain was a hero in Naples and derided at Stamford Bridge. There could be no more fitting matchwinner on a night Sarri faced down the doubters and gave the most compelling demonstration yet that his widescreen vision can be a winning one.

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