Antonio Conte has hailed the improvement in Romelu Lukaku's all-round game after another decisive display from the Belgian in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over Genoa. 

Lukaku's 10th goal in eight matches this term for club and country put them ahead at Stadio Luigi Ferraris before Danilo D'Ambrosio added a second to move the visitors up to third.

The former Manchester United striker now has 22 goals for Inter since his Serie A debut in August 2019, excluding penalties, which is more than any other foreign player in the competition.

Conte says he has been a long-time admirer of Lukaku and has been impressed with how he has added more to his game than just goals over the past 12 months.

"Romelu is a different player to what he was a year ago," he told Sky Sport Italia. "I always said in the past he was a rough diamond that I wanted to work with. 

"He is working and you can see just the way he receives the ball, the way he moves. Everything has improved."

Christian Eriksen was handed his first league start in a month but struggled before his departure shortly before the hour mark, failing to register a single shot or any key passes. 

Conte was frustrated at being asked about the 28-year-old but did concede he needs to improve his "intensity".

"I think you're getting too focused on this Eriksen issue," he added. "You've been underlining and asking about him since January. He is part of the squad, like everyone else. He plays if he deserves it and won't play if he doesn't.

"You see Christian's characteristics. I am trying to get the best out of him, but I don't like that you keep trying to make me speak ill of Eriksen rather than praise others.

"He is with us, that's not a problem. It's inevitable we need to find the right way to get the best out of him. At times it works, at others it doesn't. We need to work with him and get him to increase the intensity. 

"He's trying, he's giving it all, but we can't keep analysing and underlining how Inter play when Eriksen is on or off the field. It's not fair."

Following an opening 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach in Group B, Inter are back in Champions League action on Tuesday with a trip to Shakhtar Donetsk. 

Romelu Lukaku maintained his hot scoring streak as Inter battled to a 2-0 victory over Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to snap their three-game winless run.

Inter lost 2-1 to bitter rivals Milan last weekend, either side of draws with Lazio and Borussia Monchengladbach, and they made hard work of overcoming Genoa on Saturday.

The Nerazzurri failed to register a single shot on target in the first half of a league game for the first time under Antonio Conte, who has been under increasing pressure.

But Inter made the breakthrough thanks to Lukaku's 10th goal in eight matches this term for club and country, which Danilo D'Ambrosio added to 11 minutes from time as the visitors moved up to third.

Antonio Conte is confident he will be given time at Inter and highlighted the work of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp as an example of what can be achieved with the right backing.

Inter have gone three games without a win heading into Saturday's league trip to Genoa, including a chastening 2-1 loss against bitter rivals Milan last weekend.

The Nerazzurri finished a point behind Serie A champions Juventus in Conte's first full season and lost to 3-2 to Sevilla in the Europa League final.

But Conte is happy with the progress made by his side and hopes to take inspiration from "war machine" Liverpool, who were rewarded for constant improvement under Klopp with the Champions League title in 2019 and Premier League crown in 2020.

"We must always give 110 per cent to try to get a good result, in addition to the performance," Conte said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"We need to work hard. As an example I take Klopp's Liverpool. It was four years without winning - now they are a war machine.

"We are building something important. I don't know if it will lead to winning something in the short term, but I know for sure that it is a right path.

"Even from the outside, seeing Inter, you get the idea of ​​a solid structure unlike in other years. This gives me happiness."

Inter have conceded eight goals at this stage of a Serie A campaign for the first time since 2011-12 and let in two more in Wednesday's 2-2 Champions League draw with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Conte accepts Inter have to shore up at the back but reiterated he is content with the overall performances of his players, arguing his side have yet to be second best in a game.

"If we look at what we are trying to do, how we are trying to involve the whole squad, then it's inevitable that the characteristics of some performers change from last year," he said.

"We scored many goals and could have scored more. We conceded avoidable goals and often due to individual situations that we can improve.

"We will continue to work, to play games. Up to now, there hasn't been a single team that has been superior to us."

Inter's trip to Genoa is their third match in eight days and they have a trip to Shakhtar Donetsk to come on Tuesday, before the visit of Parma four days later.

"It is important we manage the situation and preserve the players as best we can, while playing in the best possible way," Conte said.

"The two things have to be combined. Some players are always playing so we need to protect them from a physical and phycological point of view."

Inter have won their last four Serie A meetings against Genoa by an overall score of 16-0, and only once in their Serie A history have they won five in a row without conceding against a single opponent - versus Atalanta from 1951 to 1953.

Napoli will be without Piotr Zielinski against Juventus on Sunday after the midfielder tested positive for coronavirus.

The club announced on Friday that Zielinski and staff member Giandomenico Costi were found to have contracted COVID-19 following Thursday's round of testing.

The Poland international scored one goal and set up another in last weekend's 6-0 thrashing of Genoa, who confirmed after the game they had 14 positive coronavirus cases.

Genoa's meeting with Torino, which was scheduled for Saturday, was called off by Lega Serie A on Thursday.

On Friday Genoa announced that two more players and another staff member had tested positive and they had cancelled all activity at their training base until Monday.

Napoli, who sit top of Serie A after scoring eight goals without conceding in their opening two matches, are scheduled to undergo another round of tests before travelling to Turin.

Serie A side Genoa have announced 14 people at the club have returned positive tests for coronavirus.

The cases, from among the playing squad and other staff, were confirmed following the 6-0 league defeat to Napoli on Sunday.

"The club has activated all the procedures as per the protocol and informed the authorities. The club will give updates as the situation evolves," Genoa said in a statement on Monday.

This news means Saturday's scheduled game against Torino could now be in doubt.

It also means Napoli will likely need to carry out tests of their squad before Sunday's clash with champions Juventus.

Sampdoria also confirmed on Monday that forward Keita Balde had tested positive for COVID-19 and will now follow the necessary health protocols.

The player is due to join Sampdoria from Monaco this week on loan.

Davide Zappacosta and Marko Pjaca have joined Genoa on loan from Chelsea and Juventus respectively.

Zappacosta, 28, spent last term in Serie A with Roma but made only nine league appearances, having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury while in the capital.

The right-back joined the Blues in 2017, yet, having featured regularly across his debut campaign, he earned just one Premier League start in his second term.

He appears to have fallen down the pecking order under Frank Lampard following the emergence of Reece James, but is under contract until 2022.

Winger Pjaca, 25, has been at Juventus since 2016 after signing on a five-year deal from Dinamo Zagreb.

However, the Croatian has failed to establish himself in the Bianconeri's first team – for whom he last played a Serie A game in March 2017 – and his spell at Genoa will be his latest loan away from the club after stints with Schalke, Fiorentina and Anderlecht.

Genoa, who finished 17th in Serie A last season and narrowly avoided relegation, begin the new campaign at home to Crotone on Sunday.

Gareth Bale is returning to Tottenham.

Linked with a move from Real Madrid after being frozen out, the Wales international was reportedly a target for Manchester United.

But it seems Bale is heading back to Spurs.

 

TOP STORY – BALE TO COMPLETE TOTTENHAM RETURN

Bale is completing a return to Tottenham from Madrid, according to The Daily Mail.

The report says Bale has agreed to a season-long loan deal worth more than £13million, part of which will be financed by Madrid.

It comes as ESPN reported Spurs head coach Jose Mourinho sanctioned the move despite being warned Bale would struggle to meet expectations in the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Tottenham and Sergio Reguilon will complete a medical at the club on Thursday before sealing a move from Madrid, according to the Evening Standard. The left-back, who was also linked to United, is set to cost around £25m (€27.5m) and the deal will include a buy-back option for LaLiga's champions. Meanwhile, the Mirror reports Danny Rose is set to leave Tottenham and join Genoa.

- Arsenal could be set to make a move for Lyon star Houssem Aouar. Telefoot reports Arsenal are set to make a £36.4m (€40m) offer for Aouar, who is also apparently a target for Manchester City.

- Still linked with a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, United are also apparently targeting other attackers. The Manchester Evening News reports the Red Devils are considering a move for Atalanta's 18-year-old attacker Amad Traore.

- Barcelona may be close to strengthening. The Daily Telegraph claims the Catalan giants are set to sign Ajax defender Sergino Dest, who was also linked to City and Bayern Munich.

- Could Inter make a move for United defender Chris Smalling? The centre-back seemed set to join Roma, where he was on loan last season, but no switch has materalised. Now, CalcioMercato reports Inter could step in and offer one of Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic or Joao Mario to the Premier League club.

- Leicester City are set to land Cengiz Under from Roma. Fabrizio Romano says a £2.7m (€3m) loan bid with a £21.8m (€24m) obligation to buy the 23-year-old attacker has been accepted.

Juventus have confirmed Mattia Perin has rejoined Genoa on loan, after the goalkeeper spent half of last season with his former club.

Perin left Genoa for Juve in 2018, though he made just nine Serie A appearances in his first season in Turin.

He moved back to his old side on a temporary deal in January, playing 21 times to help Genoa stay up by four points.

The 27-year-old – who has been capped twice by Italy and is behind Wojciech Szczesny and veteran Gianluigi Buffon in the Juve pecking order – will now remain with Genoa for the new campaign.

Genoa begin the season at home to Crotone on September 20, while reigning champions Juve host Sampdoria the same day.

Borja Valero appears to have confirmed he will leave Inter when his contract expires.

Antonio Conte was reportedly interested in handing the veteran midfielder a one-year contract extension at San Siro.

The 35-year-old's deal is due to expire at the end of August and he posted a farewell message to the club on his official Twitter account.

Valero wrote: "It was an honour to wear these colours. Thanks for everything @Inter."

Valero joined Inter from Fiorentina in 2017 and made 100 appearances for the Nerazzurri, scoring five goals.

A return to Fiorentina could be in the offing for the Spaniard, while Genoa and Parma have also been credited with an interest.

Lecce were relegated from Serie A following a 4-3 final-day defeat at home to Parma as Genoa retained their top-flight status.

Fabio Liverani guided Lecce to promotion last season, but they will make an immediate return to the second tier.

A Fabio Lucioni own goal and Gianluca Caprari's strike gave Parma a two-goal lead, but Antonin Barak and Biagio Meccariello ensured Lecce were back on level terms at the break.

They went down fighting, but Andreas Cornelius and Roberto Inglese put Parma in command again before Gianluca Lapadula pulled one back in a thriller.

Lecce would have suffered the drop with SPAL and Brescia in any case, as Genoa cruised to a 3-0 victory over Verona to finish four points above the drop zone, Antonio Sanabria helping himself to a double.

Cristian Romer added a third goal before half-time and was later sent off, while Genoa also had Francesco Cassata dismissed late on along with Verona's Sofyan Amrabat.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte described talk of the possible arrival of Barcelona captain Lionel Messi as "fantasy football", though he did welcome the transfer links.

Messi's future has dominated headlines in 2019-20 amid speculation the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is ready to quit Barca at the conclusion of his contract next year.

Linked to Inter previously, reports of Messi's father buying a house in Milan this week fuelled more rumours about a stunning switch to San Siro.

Conte was asked about Messi following Inter's 3-0 Serie A win over Genoa on Saturday and he told reporters: "We're talking about fantasy football, situations that at the moment cannot be linked to Inter. For many reasons.

"I don't think there's a madman in the world who wouldn't want Messi. But that kind of situation really is very, very, very far from Inter, from what we are doing and what we are trying to build.

"We need to create a solid base, and then maybe... I repeat, this is fantasy football; however, I like the fact that when fantasy football is involved, the team that is linked to it is always Inter."

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Conte's Inter returned to winning ways at Genoa following consecutive draws.

Alexis Sanchez – on loan from Manchester United – continued his fine form with a goal of his own as Inter moved second in the table, a point clear of Atalanta and four adrift of leaders Juventus with two matches remaining.

Conte's former club Juventus can seal their ninth successive Scudetto against Sampdoria on Sunday.

"I think that so far we have 76 points, which is good, but I am sure it's not enough to win," Conte said.

"Therefore the league will be won by someone else. At the same time, we must have the determination to finish as high as we can."

Antonio Conte suggested Romelu Lukaku would be well suited to the NFL as he marvelled at the Inter striker's pace and power after a superb display against Genoa.

Lukaku scored the first and last goals in a 3-0 win, with Alexis Sanchez also on target as the Nerazzurri moved second in Serie A.

The Belgium striker was brilliant throughout but saved the moment of the match for stoppage time, accelerating into the Genoa box and blasting in for a stunning solo strike.

Lukaku now has 23 league goals this season, yet Conte believes American football would similarly be a match for his talents.

"Romelu is an atypical footballer because despite being 1.90 metres in height, he is also fast," Conte told a news conference.

"He acts as a focal point but also, from the middle of the pitch, attacks like an American football player.

"I insisted on having him here and he can still grow with his touch and attacking the goal with malice.

"He is only 27 years old and if he wants to continue growing, he has an important future."

Lukaku was delighted with his own contribution but announced his frustration at Inter's failure to seriously challenge Juventus in the closing weeks of the campaign.

The league leaders can clinch the Scudetto against Sampdoria on Sunday, with Inter four points adrift having played a game more.

"On a personal level, I am happy," Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia. "But I say that at the team level, we can do so much more.

"We have a good team, it is not easy to stay second because we want to win. But we have to go as high as possible and I want to help to do it.

"We have lost too many points, but we are young and we want to grow. Now we want to do well in the final matches in the league and then in the Europa League."

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter returned to winning ways with a 3-0 Serie A success at Genoa.

Consecutive draws had seen the Nerazzurri pass up the opportunity to properly capitalise on Juventus' shaky form, with the leaders still able to seal the Scudetto against Sampdoria on Sunday.

But even with their title hopes virtually extinguished, Antonio Conte's side were back on their game at the Luigi Ferraris to move up to second.

Lukaku nodded in his 22nd league goal of the season 34 minutes in and, after Alexis Sanchez added a late second, got his 23rd with a marvellous individual effort, leaving Genoa still just four points clear of the bottom three, having played a game more than 18th-placed Lecce.

Pressure had steadily built on the Genoa goal after a slow Inter start, with Lukaku - at the heart of all of their best work - helping to create chances for Marcelo Brozovic and Christian Eriksen that were both squandered.

The Belgium striker made sure the visitors were in front heading into half-time, though, as he ghosted into the area to meet Cristiano Biraghi's searching cross with a firm header in off the post.

A curling Filip Jagiello free-kick provided a brief scare, yet a low-key second period saw few clear openings at either end.

Although Genoa belatedly threw men forward in search of an equaliser, they were swiftly caught out in defence at the other end and substitute Sanchez netted via the bar after fine work from Victor Moses on the right.

There was still time for Lukaku to produce the moment of the match, racing forward deep into stoppage time and cutting inside past desperate challenges to hammer in the third.


What does it mean? Inter up to second but focus on Europe

Inter's form has not been convincing since the season's restart, yet they climbed back up to second with just two league games remaining with victory.

Though their slim title aspirations remain alive, their focus now is surely on the Europa League, with a last-16 tie against Getafe less than two weeks away. Conte can be encouraged by the control his side largely displayed.

Lukaku key in games to come

Inter were well on top for much of this match, but it fell to Lukaku to be their driving force, playing the role of both creator and finisher. He might have had an assist even before scoring the opener.

The former Manchester United striker's form will be crucial heading towards the Europa League, with strike partner Lautaro Martinez still struggling for form.

Inter waiting on Eriksen impact

Conte's pre-match comments focused on Eriksen, who the coach believes is growing into his role at Inter.

Some supporters might not be convinced by the former Tottenham midfielder just yet, though, and he passed up a big early opportunity to net his fourth Nerazzurri goal, lashing over the top following a smart Lukaku lay-off.

What's next?

The fixture list does not make easy reading for Inter, even if their league season is essentially over. They face Napoli next, followed by Atalanta and Getafe. Genoa do still need points and visit Sassuolo on Wednesday.

Antonio Conte is confident Christian Eriksen will prove a success at Inter in the long term but called on the midfielder to keep working.

Eriksen was a January arrival from Tottenham but has scored just three goals in 19 games for the Nerazzurri, whose Serie A title challenge waned over the same period.

Head coach Conte was encouraged by the Denmark international's display in the midweek draw against Fiorentina, however.

And the former Chelsea coach believes Eriksen can now kick on at San Siro as long as his work ethic does not drop.

"I prefer not to talk about individuals," Conte told Inter TV. "But [Eriksen] made an excellent first half with Fiorentina.

"He has now arrived. He is trying to give his best and we can put him in the best conditions to be able to succeed.

"Behind the strikers, he can do whatever he wants. But he must continue to work steadily and seriously. The results will come."

There is still time for Eriksen to have an impact in this campaign with Inter facing a frantic final stretch.

After visiting Genoa on Saturday, the Nerazzuri face Napoli and Atalanta in their last two Serie A fixtures, before their Europa League campaign resumes against Getafe just three days later.

"First of all, there is a difference [to the other Serie A teams]," Conte said.

"On August 5, we play in the last 16. Our next opponents, Napoli and Atalanta, will instead have more time to prepare for the Champions League, to rest and give their players the right preparation.

"We finish and then immediately play in Europe. It's a period of lots of work, physically and mentally."

Maurizio Sarri lauded the "phenomenal skills" of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa after Serie A leaders Juventus defeated Genoa.

Stunning goals from Ronaldo, Dybala and Costa ensured titleholders Juve stayed four points clear of scudetto challengers Lazio thanks to Tuesday's 3-1 victory at struggling Genoa.

Dybala broke the deadlock with a fine individual effort in the 50th minute before Ronaldo made it 2-0 six minutes later via a thunderous long-range strike.

Juve substitute Costa then put the visitors out of sight with an equally impressive effort, while Andrea Pinamonti drilled in a 76th-minute consolation for Genoa.

"In the second half we lead thanks to our single players because we scored on three excellent plays by three single men," Juve head coach Sarri said.

"Paulo's [Dybala] great slalom, the outstanding Ronaldo's shoot, incredible for its precision and strength and the sensible touch from [Douglas Costa].

"This is how we solved the match, thanks to our individualities and phenomenal skills. We created the team's assumptions." 

Sarri and Juve were heavily criticised following the coronavirus break, which saw the Italian champions go back-to-back games without scoring, including in their Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli.

Ronaldo was also scrutinised but Juve have now won three consecutive matches to be top of the table with nine fixtures remaining.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner equalled his tally from last season across all competitions with his 28th goal in 2019-20, while he has scored 14 goals in 2020 – more than any other Serie A player this year.

Sarri added: "After the lockdown I made an assessment: I said that something changed. Then everybody almost made fun of me because we lost the Coppa Italia on penalties.

"The truth is that once we improved our condition we started paying better this kind of football. This due to our condition that's getting better after the lockdown."

Juve are back in action against city rivals Torino on Saturday.

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