Inter strengthened their position at the Serie A summit as Lautaro Martinez's late header secured a slender 2-1 win over Torino on Sunday.

The Nerazzurri never looked like scoring during a dismal first half, but they forged ahead in the 62nd minute when Romelu Lukaku slotted home from the penalty spot.

Antonio Sanabria pulled the hosts level eight minutes later, yet Inter celebrated an eighth consecutive top-flight win courtesy of Martinez's 14th league goal of the season five minutes from full-time.

The result moved Antonio Conte's side nine points clear at the top of Serie A, although Milan had the chance to restore a six-point gap by overcoming Napoli later on Sunday.

Inter coach Antonio Conte is refusing to get carried away about his side's Serie A title prospects despite Monday's 1-0 win over contenders Atalanta restoring their six-point buffer.

Milan Skriniar scored the lone goal of the game from a 54th-minute corner as Inter responded after their closest competitors Milan and Juventus both won earlier in the weekend.

Fifth-placed Atalanta, the second top scorers in Serie A behind Inter this season, posed a major threat but the Nerazzurri did enough to claim their seventh consecutive league win, prompting calls they have one hand on the Scudetto already with 12 games to play.

"If I look in my pocket, I find €40," Conte laughed, when asked post-game if he felt he has a piece of the Scudetto in his pocket. "I went to get petrol and I have €40 left.

"Having said that, we must continue. There are still two games before the break against Torino, entangled in the bottom half of the standings, and the other is against Sassuolo, who create big problems for everyone.

"We have to continue not thinking about what it was. Tomorrow, the lads will rest, we recharge our batteries and get ready."

The ex-Chelsea manager added: "We went back being six points clear. We played later and knew that our direct rivals had won in Verona, Juve had won against Lazio and they had come closer, and it’s inevitable that pressure will increase from now until the end.

"There was a lot in it but we hope to carry on improving from now until the end, it's also important to mention that Atalanta is a tough team that takes points from all of the big sides."

Antonio Conte is focused only on this season with Inter, rather than his long-term future at the club, as the Serie A leaders prepare to host Atalanta.  

Inter's 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday – sealed thanks to a brace from Alexis Sanchez – made it four league wins on the spin, though Conte acknowledges there is still a long way to go yet in their bid for a first Scudetto since 2010.  

The former Juventus and Chelsea boss is in his second year in charge of the Nerazzurri, his current deal running until the end of the 2021-22 campaign.  

It remains to be seen if he will sign an extension to extend his tenure beyond then, though his primary concern right now is staying clear of the chasing pack in the title race.  

"The fact is I have another year to run on the contract. At this moment, all of us – me, the coaches, the players – must focus on the present," Conte said.

"We cannot be distracted by other factors, we must be concentrated because we can influence the present, from here to the end of the season.  

"What will happen externally, I do not know. We have no influence over that. We can influence the present and our job.  

"I know that people want to talk about other factors, but we must stay concentrated. We need continuity and consistency. We want to show that Inter are back to the levels it deserves. 

"We cannot get carried away and think about the future – we must stay focused and think about the here and now. Our objective is playing matters and doing well for the club." 

Conte will come up against one of his former clubs on Monday, though Atalanta are a far different proposition now to when he was in charge in 2009-10.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side are once again fighting for a top-four finish, their total of 49 points a club-record tally after 25 games in a top-flight campaign.

Inter have triumphed only once in their last six matches against Atalanta in Serie A, with Conte full of praise for his opposite number ahead of the game at San Siro.

"We are facing a team that creates big problems for everyone, in the Champions League and in the league, where they have won several times against the big names," Conte said. 

"Atalanta have consolidated, aware of their means and have strong players, both the starters and those who enter during the match – I think of [Luis] Muriel, who has taken over many times and has solved complicated games. 

"Gasperini is doing an extraordinary job, the group is following his ideas and I'm happy for him and for Atalanta, who I coached for a while."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes Alexis Sanchez is in his best condition since he joined the club, while the Chilean has compared himself to a "caged tiger".

Sanchez followed up his goal in the Nerazzurri's weekend win over Genoa with a vital brace in the 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday. 

The result moved Inter six points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit after Stefano Pioli's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. 

Sanchez spent last season on loan at Inter from Manchester United, but only managed four goals across all competitions. 

He is up to five this term despite largely playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

While acknowledging that those two are still his preferred partnership in attack, Conte stressed the importance of having a firing Sanchez waiting in the wings. 

"He is in the best condition we've ever seen him at the moment," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia.

"He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too. 

"It's important for us to create these situations with competition for places.

"Don't forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he's now in Serie B at Venezia."

Sanchez agreed with Conte's assessment of his condition and said he is eager for more playing time. 

"I am a player with a lot of experience, the coach trusts me and I am happy," he said. 

"I always want to play and be at 100 per cent. I feel like a caged lion and the more I play, the better I feel. That's always been the case since I started playing football.

"I love this sport. I love playing, and the more I play, the better I feel. We've all made sacrifices, worked hard, watched videos, studied, trained and every day learned something new."

The win over Parma means Inter have now claimed 59 points or more from the opening 25 games of a Serie A season for the fourth time in the three-points-for-a-win era. 

They won the title in the previous three (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), yet Conte is refusing to get carried away and warned his side against losing their focus.

"We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone," he added. "That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.

"We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we'll be very happy and proud, because it'll mean we've made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time."

Inter are next in action on Monday when they host Atalanta.

Inter moved six points clear at the Serie A summit as a brace from Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-1 win away at struggling Parma on Thursday.   

Scudetto rivals Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday and Antonio Conte's side took full advantage of that slip up to move closer to a first league title since the 2009-10 campaign.   

Sanchez, who scored in the weekend win over Genoa, set Inter on their way to a sixth consecutive top-flight win with his fourth league goal of the campaign nine minutes into the second half.   

The former Manchester United player added another eight minutes later as Inter, who gave the hosts hope of salvaging a draw when Hernani scored 19 minutes from full time, claimed yet another three points to pull away from their neighbours at the top of the table.

Parma carved out the first clear sight of goal in the contest, Samir Handanovic pawing away Jasmin Kurtic's header in the 15th minute.   

A sluggish Inter did not have a shot on target until the 33rd minute when Milan Skriniar's effort inside the six-yard box was well kept out by Luigi Sepe.   

The Parma goalkeeper then thwarted Romelu Lukaku after he had been played in by Marcelo Brozovic, while the Belgium international also headed wide before the interval.   

However, Inter started the second half brightly and went ahead in the 54th minute when Sanchez's strike from eight yards proved too powerful for Sepe, creeping over the line before Riccardo Gagliolo could clear.   

The Chile international claimed his second in the 62nd minute, sliding his finish past an exposed Sepe after a barnstorming run from Lukaku created the opportunity for his team-mate.   

Hernani set up a tense finale with a controlled volley from 10 yards from Giuseppe Pezzella's cross in the 71st minute, yet Inter held on to take another significant step towards the title.

Antonio Conte believes Inter's hard work is paying off as they target a first Serie A title since the 2009-10 season.

The Nerazzurri sealed a fifth consecutive top-flight win on Sunday, with goals from Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian and Alexis Sanchez securing a 3-0 victory over Genoa at San Siro.

It was Inter's sixth straight top-flight win against Genoa without conceding a single goal – the first time they have achieved this against any opponent in the competition.

The result moved them seven points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit, although Stefano Pioli's side had the chance to rein them in with victory over Roma later on Sunday.

Conte was pleased with his side's display and said his players deserve recognition for being this season's standard-bearers ahead of Juventus, who have won the last nine titles.

"We played against a Genoa side in great shape," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"We had the right approach, allowing Genoa little other than a few crosses. We scored three goals, [Genoa goalkeeper] Mattia Perin had to make several big saves, so we are happy.

"All the work is paying off. It had already started to last year, but the team is developing belief in its capabilities, understanding the situations both on and off the ball, when to be aggressive, when to hold possession.

"These are Inter players, they must always have the ambition to win. It has been many years since Inter won anything, we came very close last season [they finished one point behind Juve], despite the fact it was my first year.

"In previous years, the gap with Juventus was a good 15 points for Inter. So, if we want to be objective and calculate the gap from the leaders and Inter before I arrived, last season was already an enormous step forward.

"I think we simply continued the project and we are doing something important, but there are 14 games to go.

"We have to continue like this, knowing the team have grown in every way, that we created wonderful synergy and empathy between everyone here, but winning is the aim."

Inter endured a disappointing Champions League campaign earlier this term, finishing bottom of Group B having won just one of their six games.

Conte believes that disappointment could well have provided the impetus for their Serie A title challenge, acknowledging it forced them to raise their game.

"I think we went out of the Champions League undeservedly, but that made us look inside ourselves and realise we all had to raise the bar, to be more competitive," he added.

"If we had been in the Champions League right now, I think we could've had our say in that tournament."

Inter travel to Parma in Serie A on Thursday before hosting Atalanta four days later.

Antonio Conte has claimed Romelu Lukaku would not be out of place playing American Football, as he hailed the Inter star's "atypical" style of play.

Lukaku has been in sensational form throughout his Inter career. Last season – his first campaign with the Serie A giants – he finished with 23 league goals; only Ronaldo (25) and Istvan Nyers (26) have scored more in their debut seasons with the Nerazzurri. 

The 27-year-old Belgium forward also netted 30 times across all competitions for the first time in his career, and equalled Ronaldo's record from 1997-98 of 34 goals for Inter.

Lukaku has also struck up a brilliant relationship with fellow forward Lautaro Martinez.

Indeed, across the opening 23 Serie A games this term, the duo have combined for 30 goals – Lukaku scoring 17 times and Martinez adding another 13. It is the first time Inter have a pair of players having combined for as many goals after as many matches since 1958-59.

Lukaku made his mark in last week's Milan derby, setting up Martinez's opener before sealing a dominant 3-0 victory with a sublime solo goal.

"It's too easy to say that," Conte told Il Corriere della Sera when it was put to him that some fans had described Lukaku as "unstoppable".

"I wish Lukaku and Lautaro were given more space inside the box. I don't think it's a good thing for defenders."

Lukaku, through his time with both Everton and Manchester United prior to his move to Inter, was often at his best driving at goal from deep.

In particular at Everton, his now-international boss Roberto Martinez occasionally used him on the right flank to good effect, giving Lukaku the freedom to burst inside at pace onto his stronger left foot.

And Conte believes Lukaku would have been able to make a career in American Football, such is his physique and power.

"Lukaku is an atypical player, he is a speedy centre forward, he could play American Football," Conte added.

Earlier in the week, Belgium boss Martinez spoke highly of Lukaku, who he managed for three seasons at Everton before his departure in 2016, though the Spaniard swiftly landed a job in charge of the striker's national team.

"He scores like few others," Martinez told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Create and score, create and score, create and score…

"He arrived in Milan at the perfect moment. He became a complete player, obviously thanks to Conte. Today, at his age, there are no strikers as strong as him.

"In the past, Romelu always had the potential to be able to do what he is demonstrating in Milan. For me it's not a surprise."

Antonio Conte acknowledges he has become a "pain in the a**" as he attempts to guide Inter to their first trophy in a decade.

Ahead of hosting Genoa on Sunday, Inter top Serie A after 23 games – their derby victory over Milan last week moving them four points clear of their city and title rivals.

Inter – who finished second in Serie A behind Juventus in Conte's debut season – last won a trophy in 2010-11, clinching their seventh Coppa Italia trophy.

The Nerazzurri have already seen two opportunities for silverware slip from their grasp this campaign, finishing bottom of their Champions League group and exiting the Coppa Italia in the semi-finals.

With Milan facing a tough trip to Roma and Juve further off the pace, Inter have the chance to consolidate their lead at the top when they hunt a ninth straight home win in Serie A.

It is a feat that only Juve and Roma have managed in the last 10 seasons.

Conte has not shied away from questioning not only his own players but also Inter's hierarchy, yet the former Italy coach believes his rather decisive style is what has helped transform Inter back into title contenders.

"When people talk about me, there is always a 'but'. They say: 'He is a good coach, but…', that 'but' stimulates me," Conte told Il Corriere Della Sera.

"Football is my passion. When I ended my career as a footballer, I started from the beginning with Arezzo. I had won everything as a footballer. Coach Conte had started from zero. Those who played in big clubs think they can be coaches, but it's different.

"An opponent would have pushed for Conte to be kicked out of Inter. As an opponent, I would want to kill my enemy, in a sporting [sense]. 

"I'm more prepared thanks to my experiences. I was advised not to join Inter, but I like challenges, and this one is the most difficult in my career.

"It's hard to change that mental chip. If you don't win for 10 years, you subconsciously get used to the situation, look for excuses or blame someone else, you don't see your limitations or flaws.

"The environment is imbued with this, it is important to work not only on the players but on every sector. So you raise the pressure and become a pain in the a**.

"This is the difference between winning and living peacefully. When I go to a club, I enter into it body and soul. I am passionate and passion makes the difference, it is contagious. If you feel the sense of belonging you give more. I don't know if we will win, but we will do everything to succeed.

“A coach is happy when a project lasts long. If you must leave after a short while, it leaves bitterness. Making your mark and staying for many years is the most beautiful thing. I wish there were continuity in everything."

While his determination to end Inter's barren run is clear, Conte conceded there is one job away from club football which still entices him.

Conte managed Italy from 2014 to 2016 before leaving the role to join Chelsea, who he led to the Premier League title in 2017, and the 51-year-old is open to an Azzurri return should the possibility arise.

"Absolutely no, it gives me goosebumps to think about the national team," Conte replied when asked if his time with Italy was over for good.

"My door will always be open to Italy."

Inter have confirmed that five members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Managing directors Alessandro Antonello and Giuseppe Marotta, sporting director Piero Ausilio and lawyer Angelo Capellini have all returned positive tests.

An unspecified member of the Serie A leaders' technical staff has also tested positive for COVID-19.

A statement on Inter's official website read: "All coaches and the entire team will follow the procedures set out in the health protocol."

Inter will be desperate to ensure that this outbreak does not spread to their first-team squad or coaches.

The Italians extended their lead at the summit of table to four points with a 3-0 win over city rivals Milan last time out.

With no European commitments over the remainder of the season, Antonio Conte's men are strong favourites to end an 11-year wait for the title.

They last lifted the Scudetto during Jose Mourinho's spell at the club in 2010, which also brought European Cup success.

Juventus, who have won the last nine Serie A titles, sit eight points back in third place with a game in hand.

Inter are next in action on Sunday, when they face Genoa at the San Siro.

Romelu Lukaku has revealed how training sessions at Inter are like a war zone, as well as making clear he wishes "nothing but the best" for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

Lukaku offered Twitter followers the chance to send in questions via social media – and the striker duly replied to a wide range of topics during the session, one that he moved forward to make sure he was free to play NBA 2K later on Tuesday.

The Belgian striker has once again been pivotal for the Serie A leaders this season, scoring 17 goals to help the Nerazzurri stride four points clear at the summit in their pursuit of a first league title since 2010.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was known for a combative approach during his playing days and, according to Lukaku, he will not accept seeing any of his squad hold back – even when they're facing each other!

Asked to name the hardest player to go up against in training, the 27-year-old replied: "Training is actually a war zone. Our manager don't play lol. He doesn't like it when we hold in haha. I love it."

Former Chelsea and Manchester United striker Lukaku has formed a successful forward partnership with Lautaro Martinez, who struck twice in the emphatic 3-0 win over city rivals Milan to take his tally in the league this season to 13.

Lukaku was also on target at San Siro on Sunday, in the process becoming the first Inter player to score in four successive derby meetings since 1950.

"Communication is key! We have a great feel for each other but most importantly we work for the team!" Lukaku tweeted about his on-field connection with Martinez.

Before moving to Italy, Lukaku spent time with four different Premier League clubs.

He started out in England as a teenager with Chelsea and first seriously caught the eye when on loan at West Brom and then Everton, who then signed him for £28million.

Despite being unable to make a significant breakthrough at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku insisted he had "nothing but love" for the Blues, saying: "They gave me an opportunity to come to the Premier League as a kid. You can't have everything in life and I'm cool with that. I'm glad that experience got me to where I am today."

There were also kind words for his former United boss in Solskjaer, who was in charge when Lukaku departed Old Trafford in August 2019.

When asked if he had a good relationship with the Norwegian, Lukaku responded: "He is doing great. You guys have to know I love him as a manager and as a person and I wish him nothing but the best."

On-field success alone may not be enough to keep coach Antonio Conte at Inter, Ivan Cordoba believes.

Conte has guided Inter to the top of Serie A and they moved four points clear on Sunday with a 3-0 win at rivals Milan, the pace-setters for much of the season.

Not since Jose Mourinho's treble-winning season of 2009-10 had the Nerazzurri won the Derby della Madonnina by a three-goal margin or greater, with this latest result boosting hopes of ending the wait since that campaign for the Scudetto.

Yet even if Inter can secure the title this term, former club stalwart Cordoba - a five-time champion, including under Mourinho - still harbours concerns over Conte's relationship with the board.

The ex-Juventus, Italy and Chelsea coach has had difficulties with some of his former bosses and at one point appeared set to leave San Siro last year, just one season into his Inter reign.

While Cordoba is encouraged by Conte's work since then, he is not yet sure of a long-term plan.

"I don't know what Conte is thinking," Cordoba told Stats Perform News. "I can only hope he can achieve something important for Inter. He is on the right path.

"But since I have been part of that group for a long time, I can say Conte wants to build something not only on the pitch but off it too. These aspects are pivotal.

"You can't win or keep winning if you don't look after parallel details and fix them with the board along the way.

"We know this because Conte spoke about it before the beginning of this season.

"Now the most important thing is the pitch, because without being successful there you won't get anywhere, but the other side of the job is pivotal too.

"If himself and the board share common ideas and intents, he could be at the club for a long time. If he doesn't, it is unlikely."

Inter host Genoa in their next match on Sunday, ahead of Milan's potentially tricky trip to fourth-placed Roma later the same day.

Antonio Conte felt Inter produced an "extraordinary performance" in the 3-0 defeat of Milan, picking out midfield duo Christian Eriksen and Ivan Perisic for special praise. 

The Nerazzurri moved four points clear at the top of Serie A thanks to a resounding triumph in the derby on Sunday, Lautaro Martinez scoring in each half at San Siro. 

Romelu Lukaku struck his 17th league goal of the season to complete the emphatic victory, in the process becoming the first player to score in four successive derbies for Inter since 1950. 

For Conte, it was a case of the best-laid plans coming to fruition, albeit they needed captain Samir Handanovic to make a trio of superb saves early in the second half when the score was still at 1-0. 

"Compliments to our guys, who made an extraordinary performance," Conte said. 

"A very well-prepared match, which they followed perfectly, translating the situations they experienced on the pitch.   

"There is satisfaction in seeing the growth of the group and I am happy because the guys they deserve to reap the benefits of the work we are doing."

Both Eriksen and Perisic, two players linked with moves away in the previous transfer window, enjoyed pivotal roles for Inter.

Making just his seventh league start of the campaign, Eriksen completed 90 per cent of his attempted passes and made nine crosses despite playing in a cental position.

Perisic, meanwhile, provided two assists, including a low cross from Inter's left flank that allowed Martinez to crucially double the advantage not long after a heavy spell of Milan pressure.

"I think the task of a coach is to try to bring all the elements of the squad to improve and to enter into the idea of football that we intend to develop," Conte said when asked about the turnaround in fortunes for the duo.

"The growth of Christian and Ivan, but of all our players, makes me proud."

On Eriksen, who scored a dramatic winner against Milan in the Coppa Italia earlier in the season, the former Chelsea boss added: "Many times hasty judgments are made, as happened for Christian.

"Sometimes it takes a little time, especially when you come from abroad.  

"The same goes for Ivan, who this year has shown a great desire to challenge himself. He put himself at the full disposal of the cause and today he played an extraordinary match. He has incredible potential and must believe even more in himself."

Inter handed Milan a fifth defeat in 2021 in all competitions, which is two more than they suffered throughout the previous year. 

Stefano Pioli and Antonio Conte are relishing the prospect of a possible Scudetto shoot-out in Sunday's Derby della Madonnina.

Inter lead Milan by one point at the Serie A summit heading into this weekend's showdown after leapfrogging their bitter rivals last week.

With nine-in-a-row champions Juventus eight points adrift of top spot, albeit with a game in hand to play, the title is looking likely to end up at San Siro this season.

Milan are seeking a first Scudetto since 2011, a year after Inter last prevailed, and Sunday's game may go a long way towards determining who finishes top come the end of the campaign.

It is the first time the sides will meet holding the top two positions in the table since April 2011 and Conte is expecting a unique derby in the behind-closed-doors contest.

"It will be different to the previous derbies because of the teams' high positions - first and second," Conte said at a news conference on Saturday.

"This is very satisfying for the city of Milan. There is a lot at stake, certainly more than just local pride.

"We have to do our best to win the game and stay top of the table. It is an important match. When the table is like this you need to be even more determined."

Milan beat Inter 2-1 in October and are seeking a league double over their city rivals for the first time since 2010-11.

However, Inter won last month's eventful Coppa Italia quarter-final tie by the same scoreline and Pioli is anticipating a cagey affair in this latest tussle.

"Tomorrow we will play a derby like we have not seen for many years, with a lot on the line," Pioli told reporters.

"Both us and Inter have a clear identity. The derbies are always balanced matches with many goalscoring opportunities.

"It is not necessarily decisive for the fate of the championship, but it is important because we have been in the lead all season."

The big talking point from the most recent meeting between the sides was the coming together of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku.

But Conte, who won three titles during his time in charge of Juventus, does not believe tempers will flare this time around.

"It's going to be a match with two teams trying to win and surpass each other," Conte said.

"We must never forget that, even if this is a big game and a derby, it remains a sport. I don't predict much tension in the atmosphere.

Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals in all competitions in this fixture, including eight for Milan, and Pioli would not swap his striker for Inter star Lukaku.

"I respect Lukaku, but I prefer Ibra," Pioli said. "Tomorrow's game must be a collective effort; we must play as a team. It is the collective that highlights the qualities of the individual.

"We have to play well because we know how to do it, we have the technical qualities."

Asked how his Inter side plan to deal with Ibrahimovic, Conte said: "You neutralise threats by working as a team and reducing the errors.

"Ibrahimovic is a top player who is doing very well for Milan. He has already scored against us this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will score again."

Milan have lost three league games since the start of 2021 - one more than over the whole of 2020 - and were held 2-2 by Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday.

Pioli, who has constantly played down his side's title aspirations, accepted an improvement is required on the back of some below-par displays.

"We did not raise our levels against Red Star - even the defensive phase did not see us as solid and compact," he said.

"Tomorrow we must be very careful and determined. Our goal is to give the best, then we'll see what we've achieved at the end of the season."

Romelu Lukaku answered any recent criticism aimed in his direction against Lazio and Christian Eriksen is starting to understand what Inter require of him, says Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte.

Inter bowed out of the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage after a goalless draw at Juventus ensured a 2-1 aggregate defeat, but a 3-1 triumph over Lazio on Sunday saw Conte's side leapfrog rivals Milan at the top of Serie A.

Lukaku scored twice in the first half to move on to 300 career goals, and Lautaro Martinez was on target after Gonzalo Escalante had replied for the visitors at San Siro.

Speaking about the Belgium striker's showing, Conte told Sky Sport: "Romelu, like the whole team, gave a great response. Lautaro did, so did Ivan Perisic, the defenders, Marcelo Brozovic. They all stepped up.

"Some were starting to murmur about Lukaku after the Coppa Italia and a few lacklustre performances, suggesting he had some psychological blowback from that, but there are moments when you are not at 100 per cent.

"He came back firing on all cylinders and we need this Romelu. We need this determination and passion from everyone in the team."

Eriksen signed from Tottenham amid much fanfare in January 2020 but struggled to hit the ground running and was heavily linked with an exit last month.

However, the Denmark playmaker stayed put and has since impressed, something Conte puts down to becoming familiar with the requirements of Italian football.

"I think Christian had a few problems settling in, understanding Italian football, which is very difficult and tactical compared to the Premier League. There is also a far greater intensity now than in previous years here," Conte added.

"We tried in every way to settle him in, even changing tactical system. I think now he has made a step towards us, is starting to understand Italian, which is an important development too. He is understanding what we need.

"Eriksen was very focused when defending as well as attacking. He has a different power to his leg now after the fitness work.

"He's an extra option for us and I am more comfortable relying on him now."

Next up for Inter is a huge derby clash with Milan, a match that is sure to have huge ramifications on the outcome of the Scudetto.

Conte is relishing the challenge after seeing off a Lazio side that had won six straight league games.

"This was an objective we'd been chasing for a long time, to get to the top of the table, we achieved it after a game against a very strong team," he added.

"I congratulate Lazio and Simone Inzaghi, as they are tough, organised and with a lot of quality.

"The fact they were coming off six consecutive victories shows their strength, but at the same time it shows our mental strength.

"I am happy for the lads, inevitably this must be a starting point for us and not the finish line. We know the next game is the derby with Milan, going into it ahead is obviously much better.

"It's going to be a fascinating game between two teams who have strong ambitions."

Antonio Conte has apologised for his actions during Inter's Coppa Italia exit to Juventus, saying he should have "reacted differently" after he was "insulted".

The Inter coach, previously in charge in Turin, aimed an insulting gesture at Juve chairman Andrea Agnelli as the pair traded comments at the Allianz Stadium.

The Bianconeri earned a goalless draw to advance to the final 2-1 on aggregate, but Conte was apologetic when revisiting the incident ahead of Inter's Serie A meeting with Lazio on Sunday.

However, the former Italy boss, who said after the game Juve "need more sportsmanship and respect", suggested he was insulted first.

Conte said: "I want to only talk about football during the press conference, so I will say this before we begin: I am here to apologise.

"I reacted in the wrong way to being insulted. I could have reacted differently and that would have been more positive.

"I am sorry and I will learn from this for future reference. The insults and provocation should not be an excuse, because I still shouldn't have responded like that.

"Everyone saw what happened; that is important to me.

"However, we as coaches, players and presidents are meant to set an example and therefore I should have reacted to insults and provocation in a different way - perhaps with a thumbs up or applause, to show I could hear what was being said, but it would've been a more positive response.

"Having said all that, now we should concentrate on the game. People want to talk about football, not gossip."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.