Andrea Pirlo saluted the spirit of his Juventus side after they came from behind to seal a 3-1 win over Lazio in Serie A on Saturday.

The Bianconeri fell behind to Joaquin Correa's 14th-minute strike, but powered back to claim all three points thanks to Adrien Rabiot's fine strike and Alvaro Morata's second-half brace – the second of which came from the penalty spot. 

Morata's double took his goal involvement tally this season to 15 (seven goals, eight assists) – his best return in a Serie A campaign. 

The result means third-placed Juve are now seven points behind leaders Inter, having played the same number of games. 

With an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, which the Portuguese side hold a 2-1 advantage in, Pirlo opted to shuffle his pack against Lazio. 

Serie A's leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo started on the substitutes' bench, while Federico Bernardeschi was deployed at left-back and Danilo was used in a defensive midfield role. 

While Pirlo was disappointed with his side's sluggish start, he was pleased they were able to secure all three points after going behind for the first time since the 2-1 win over Torino in December. 

"We started badly and conceded with our poor back pass, but then there was a strong reaction from the whole team despite missing so many players," he told DAZN. 

"We didn't let our heads drop, we started to step up the tempo and that was the most important thing.

"We thought about Tuesday's game. We knew tonight was like a final, some had to play in new positions and showed great professionalism and spirit of sacrifice.

"The most important thing was the three points. Danilo was ready to work in central midfield, while Bernardeschi deserves all the compliments for playing as a left-back.

"What I liked the most was the reaction of the team, as we didn't accept being behind in such a delicate and important game, so it was that spirit I appreciated."

While he did not get on the scoresheet, Federico Chiesa was particularly impressive for the reigning champions, and the winger, who laid on Morata's first, believes something has sparked amongst his team-mates. 

"We put in a great performance, but only after conceding the opening goal, which was a mistake," he said. "We proved that we have heart, grit and I think we'll battle to the end if we play like this.

"Lazio have shown themselves to be a great team, always in the fight for the top four, so it was a big game. Having said that, they are all big if we want to win the Scudetto.

"I do what the coach asks of me. Winning the ball back comes above all from the team pressing and not just individuals. The assist was mine, but I was able to get the ball because we all worked so hard to win it back.

"After tonight, I think we're all in great shape. Something sparked within us and from now on every game is a final, whether it's in Serie A, the Champions League or the Coppa Italia."

Alvaro Morata scored twice to help Juventus to a 3-1 home win over Lazio on Saturday and keep alive their faint hopes of a 10th consecutive Serie A title.

The Bianconeri, who started with Cristiano Ronaldo on the substitutes' bench, had started sluggishly and fell behind inside 15 minutes courtesy of Joaquin Correa's third league goal of the campaign. 

Adrien Rabiot pulled them level with their first shot on target in the 39th minute, though, before Morata's quickfire double after the break – the second from the penalty spot – sealed a third win in four top-flight games. 

Andrea Pirlo's side remain in third, but have moved to within a point of Milan and seven of leaders Inter, having played the same number of games.

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo was named on the substitutes' bench for Juventus' Serie A clash with Lazio on Saturday. 

With an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, who hold a 2-1 lead from the first match, Andrea Pirlo opted to rest his talisman. 

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A this season with 20 goals and has netted four in his last three games. 

Speaking at his pre-match media conference on Friday, Pirlo hinted that 36-year-old Ronaldo might be suffering from fatigue. 

"When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good," Pirlo said. "It also applies to Cristiano. 

"Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism."

Juve, who were 10 points behind leaders Inter ahead of kick-off, opted for Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski in attack.

 

Andrea Pirlo insists Juventus remain determined to push for glory on all fronts despite not being at 100 per cent, with the club heading into a pivotal stage of the season.

The reigning champions find themselves in a battle to remain in touch with Inter in the Serie A title race; they trail the leaders by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand. 

They host Lazio on Saturday in league action, then have a crucial Champions League clash with Porto to follow on Tuesday, the Bianconeri needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to make it through to the quarter-finals.

With a Coppa Italia final to come later in the year, Pirlo appreciates he will have to manage his squad carefully in the coming weeks, though insists his focus will not switch away from the Scudetto while there is still a chance of winning it for a 10th successive season. 

"All the matches are decisive for Juventus. The next game is tomorrow's match and we will concentrate on it with all our strength to win and only then will we think about Porto," Pirlo told the media on Friday. 

"We are still in the race on all fronts and as long as there is hope we will give our all to try to win the league. 

"The enthusiasm is there because we are going through a period of tough and important games. Tomorrow's match is also important for the standings and where we are is the same as last week. We can't make mistakes in case those in front of us do so."

He added: "We must play an intelligent game tomorrow, knowing that we are in a delicate period and we are not at 100 per cent.  

"It will be important to manage every situation and every play well, because you won't be able to go to 100 miles per hour for 90 minutes."

Pirlo is hampered in his preparations by injuries within the first-team squad, while Rodrigo Bentancur is isolating away from the group after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Alvaro Morata is nearing a return to action; the striker's recent absence has increased the reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored four goals in Juve's past three games. 

"When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good," Pirlo said. "It also applies to Cristiano. 

"Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism."

Pirlo revealed Leonardo Bonucci has been able to take part in some sessions, though fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt is yet to resume training. Morata, meanwhile, is "getting better every day". 

There was also good news regarding Arthur, with the midfielder sidelined since early February but potentially close to a comeback.

"Arthur's medical check-up went well yesterday, the pain is reducing," the Juve boss revealed. "We hope he can give us a hand in the next few matches, it will depend on the pain when he resumes training with the team.

"Aaron Ramsey is fine and could play tomorrow. He can be an extra resource and we might need him."

Lazio turned up for a Serie A clash with Torino on Tuesday, but their opponents stayed away in a move that looks set to trigger a fresh dispute over how Italian football is handling the coronavirus crisis.

The Stadio Olimpico fixture had an early evening kick-off, scheduled for 18:30 local time, and home side Lazio duly arrived, with coach Simone Inzaghi announcing a team for the game.

That was already in the knowledge, however, that Torino would not be present to provide the opposition, having stayed in Turin on the advice of their local health authority after a COVID-19 outbreak.

Torino's home match against Sassuolo, due to take place last Friday, was postponed because of those cases becoming apparent.

However, Lega Serie A decided the Lazio game should go ahead, despite Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina declaring it was an "objective impossibility" to get the match on.

Gravina, quoted in La Gazzetta dello Sport, said he understood Torino's situation to be "a full-blown force majeure" and not a spur-of-the-moment decision not to travel to Rome for the game. League chiefs, however, were not as obviously sympathetic.

A string of training sessions were postponed by Torino last week. At around the time Lazio published their team sheet for Tuesday's game, Torino posted a training update, saying players had been working individually because of the restrictions imposed by local authorities.

The Corriere dello Sport newspaper said referee Marco Piccinini declared the game abandoned at 19:15 in Rome, adding that two Lazio players were called for routine doping tests despite the fixture not being played.

It remains to be seen what steps Lega Serie A takes next, but there has been a precedent of sorts this season, when Napoli were barred from travelling to Turin to face Juventus in October.

League chiefs had turned down a request to call off the game and awarded a 3-0 victory to Juventus, also docking Napoli one point. However, the Naples side appealed to the Italian Olympic Committee's Collegio di Garanzia dello Sport - the highest sporting court in the land - and overturned the Lega Serie A decision. That game will be replayed, with March 17 reportedly a possible date.

Lazio sporting director Igli Tare told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Tuesday's intended kick-off time: "I could say many things, but I keep them to myself.

"We respected the rules and we came to the stadium. Now we will wait 45 minutes, then we will leave everything in the hands of the competent bodies.

"Would I have preferred to play? Absolutely yes."

Tare said it was not important whether he understood Torino's point of view.

"I just have to respect the rules of the Lega," he said. "We know how things stand. We are here and this is the only thing that matters."

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick said the Champions League holders took a giant step towards the quarter-finals following their 4-1 demolition of Lazio.

It was one-way traffic in Rome, where Bayern made light work of hosts Lazio in the opening leg of the last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Robert Lewandowski, Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane were on target in the opening 45 minutes before Lazio's Francesco Acerbi turned the ball into his own net within two minutes of the second-half restart.

Joaquin Correa pulled a goal back for Lazio two minutes later, but Bundesliga champions Bayern are in complete control of the knockout clash.

Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 18 Champions League games (W17 D1) – the fourth-longest such streak in the competition's history and the longest since a run of 25 for Manchester United in May 2009.

"Everyone lived up to expectations," Flick said post-match. "We turned in a very good team performance.

"We wanted to put our opponents under pressure from the start, it worked out well. We often won the ball high up the field, created chances and made the most of them. We're very pleased today.

"We want to advance to the quarter-finals, and today we took a giant stride towards our goal. But there's still a second match to play."

Musiala – just the second 17-year-old to start a Champions League knockout fixture for Bayern – enjoyed a memorable outing in the Italian capital, where he doubled the lead after Lewandowski's opener.

At 17 years and 363 days, Musiala became the youngest Englishman to score in the Champions League.

He also became the second-youngest player to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League, after Bojan (17 years and 217 days) netted for Barcelona against Schalke in the quarter-finals in 2007-08.

"We are very happy that he produced a good performance just like the whole team. The goal shows what he's about. He is very good when he has the ball and can play well between the lines," Flick added.

"He has a good feeling for open space on the pitch. He did well, just like the other players. We are happy with his goal and satisfied with his performance."

Simone Inzaghi accepted the pressure of the occasion got to his Lazio players after being thumped 4-1 by holders Bayern Munich in Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.

Competing in their first Champions League knockout-round tie in 21 years, Lazio found themselves three goals down by half-time against the German visitors in Rome.

Bayern star Robert Lewandowski pounced on a weak Mateo Musacchio backpass and rounded Pepe Reina for an early opener – his 72nd Champions League goal, moving him ahead of Real Madrid great Raul and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (134) and Lionel Messi (119).

Jamal Musiala doubled the lead 15 minutes later to become the second-youngest goalscorer in the knockout stages behind Bojan, before Leroy Sane fired in number three at the end of an attack that came about as a result of Lazio's Patric losing possession.

A bad day for Serie A outfit Lazio got even worse 62 seconds after the half-time interval when Francesco Acerbi turned Sane's cross into his own net under pressure from Alphonso Davies.

Joaquin Correa pulled one back with a fine solo goal but, having seen his side ship four or more goals in a home European match for just the third time in their history, Lazio head coach Inzaghi was left to rue some horror defending.

"Unfortunately, we'd said this week with the lads that we should play our game," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We felt the occasion too much. We were tense against the world champions, but we basically scored three of the four goals for them.

"Disappointment in the locker room is natural, but it's already an achievement for us to be here. In games at this level, you need to be at 100 per cent, to do everything right and hope the opponents aren’t at their best.

"If we look at it, we're talking about the Club World Cup winners and we scored three out of four goals for them. You can't make those mistakes at this level."

However, Inzaghi felt that the game may have panned out differently had Lazio been awarded a penalty when trailing 1-0 for a challenge on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic inside the box.

"We knew the kind of team we were facing. I think we'd started well before the error for the opening goal, and there should've been a penalty when it was still 1-0," Inzaghi added.

"If the penalty had been given for 1-1, that might've changed the game, but none of it went our way tonight. We can learn from this experience in order to grow and be stronger in future."

Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 18 Champions League matches – the fourth-longest run in the competition's history – winning all but one of those games since the start of last season.

Hansi Flick was delighted with the Bundesliga champions' display but is refusing to take a place in the quarter-finals for granted ahead of the return fixture in Bavaria on March 17.

"Generally speaking everyone has met the expectations today. We won the ball high up the pitch and put the opponent under pressure. We are very satisfied today," he said at a news conference.

"The Champions League is a special competition for us.  Everyone was ready to do something special. The win was well deserved. 

"But we now have to play the second leg against Lazio first. We want to go to the quarter-finals and today we have come a lot closer to achieving that."

Thomas Muller has missed Bayern's last four matches after testing positive for coronavirus and Flick is unsure if the attacker will be back for Saturday's league visit of Cologne.

"There are still tests to be made," Flick said. "He will be back when the doc gives the green light. The earlier he returns, the happier we are."

Leon Goretzka is hopeful Bayern Munich team-mate Jamal Musiala will commit his international future to Germany following the midfielder's latest eye-catching display.

Musiala marked his second Champions League start with a long-range strike in Bayern's emphatic 4-1 win over Lazio in Tuesday's last-16 second leg.

At 17 years and 363 days, he is the youngest Englishman to score in the competition and the second-youngest player to net in the knockout stages after Bojan in 2007-08.

However, despite representing England twice at Under-21s level, reports suggest the youngster plans to pledge his allegiance to Germany at senior level.

Asked about Musiala's international future following Bayern's win at the Stadio Olimpico, 29-cap Goretzka told Sky Sport Germany: "I hope he chooses Germany!"

Having already become Bayern's youngest-ever Bundesliga goalscorer in September, Musiala also now tops the same list in the Champions League with his fourth goal for the club.

The Stuttgart-born prodigy scored from his only shot against Lazio and Goretzka was impressed by what he saw.

"He was extremely happy to play from the start," he said. "We tried to make him play freely and not worry too much. Joshua [Kimmich] and I protected his back and he did well."

Musiala's strike came after Robert Lewandowski had opened the scoring for Bayern with his 72nd Champions League goal.

That moved the prolific striker ahead of Real Madrid great Raul in the competition's all-time list of scorers and behind only Lionel Messi (119) and Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

Leroy Sane then added a third and played a key part in Bayern's fourth, which was turned into his own net by Francesco Acerbi, before Joaquin Correa pulled one back.

Germany winger Sane played more key passes (two) than any Bayern player and also contested the most duels (17) of any player on the field.

It is the third game in a row Sane has been directly involved in a goal and he is glad to have found his feet following a big-money move from Manchester City last year.

"I'm an attacking player and want to set impulses upfront," he said. "I want to help the team. Today I think I did quite well, but I'm not getting carried away.

"We were there from the first minute. Hansi [Flick] and the coaching staff pointed out to us before the game that Lazio would make mistakes if you put them under pressure. That worked right away."

With his latest strike, Sane has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 10 Champions League appearances – seven goals and three assists.

Robert Lewandowski moved outright third on the list of all-time Champions League goalscorers as he helped Bayern Munich to a convincing 4-1 win against Lazio in Tuesday's last-16 first leg.

Bayern have stuttered domestically with a draw and defeat in their past two Bundesliga matches, but they eased to victory at the Stadio Olimpico, scoring three of their four goals in the first half.

Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane put the holders in complete control after prolific striker Lewandowski had opened the scoring with his 72nd goal in the competition, moving him behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (134) and Lionel Messi (119).

Francesco Acerbi's own goal early in the second half gave Lazio an even bigger mountain to climb and, while Joaquin Correa did pull one back with a fine solo goal, Hansi Flick's men are in complete control ahead of the return tie in Bavaria on March 17.

The hosts, competing in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in 21 years, gifted Bayern the lead inside nine minutes as Lewandowski pounced on Mateo Musacchio's underhit backpass and rounded Pepe Reina for a simple finish.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was unfortunate not then to win a Lazio penalty and Bayern were soon instead two up through Musiala's drilled effort from the edge of the box following a smart team move.

Lewandowski was denied by Reina's leg, but the world champions added a third after some more lax play from Lazio, Patric losing the ball to Kingsley Coman, who fired in a shot that Reina could only parry to Sane.

Simone Inzaghi's side were further behind 62 seconds after half-time as Acerbi turned Sane's cross into his own net inside the six-yard box under pressure from Alphonso Davies.

But Lazio extended the Champions League record for both scoring and conceding in consecutive matches to 13 thanks to Correa's calm finish past Manuel Neuer after slaloming through the opposition defence.

Correa was denied a quickfire second by a good Neuer save and Ciro Immobile was also thwarted by the Bayern goalkeeper, although Lazio's deficit did not increase as Reina produced another good stop to keep out Lewandowski 10 minutes from time.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski moved outright third on the list of all-time Champions League goalscorers with his strike against Lazio on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old pounced on a poor backpass from Mateo Musacchio, rounded Pepe Reina and rolled the ball into an empty net to open the scoring in the last-16 tie.

Lewandowski now has 72 goals in UEFA's premier club competition, moving him above Real Madrid great Raul and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Juventus forward Ronaldo tops the list with 134 goals while Barcelona's Messi has 119.

Poland international Lewandowski reached the 72-goal mark in 95 matches, scoring 47 with his right foot, nine with his left, 15 with his head and one via other means.

Jamal Musiala went on to double Bayern's lead at the Stadio Olimpico with a strike from the edge of the box, making him the youngest ever Englishman to score in the Champions League at 17 years and 363 days, before Leroy Sane made it 3-0 prior to half-time.

Holders Bayern Munich look to move another step closer to retaining their Champions League title when they face Lazio, while Atletico Madrid and Chelsea do battle in Bucharest on Tuesday.

Bayern cruised into the round of 16 as Group A winners, claiming five victories and a draw in six games, and will be expected to knock Serie A side Lazio out, although they will arrive in Rome on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Lazio and the Bundesliga leaders will lock horns at Stadio Olimpico in the first leg, but there will be no home advantage for Atleti when they take on Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea.

Coronavirus-related travel restrictions meant the game was moved to the National Arena in the capital of Romania, which Tuchel believes will give his side an advantage.

We used Opta numbers to preview the two clashes.

 

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea: Suarez not yet off the mark

If history is anything to go by, it could be difficult to pick a winner in this tie as the two sides have won two apiece and drawn three of their previous European games - scoring 11 goals each.

Atleti have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. Chelsea will attempt to progress past the round of 16 for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, when they lost to Diego Simeone's men in the semi-finals.

Luis Suarez has never failed to score or deliver an assist in a Champions League season – this is his eighth campaign in the tournament. The striker has not scored or laid a goal on in his four Champions League games for Atleti.

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud found the net every 28 minutes on average in the group stage this term (five goals in 142 minutes), the best ratio of any player to score more than once.

Among the goalkeepers to play at least three Champions League games this season, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy has the best save percentage in the competition (94 per cent), only conceding from one of the 16 shots on target he has faced.

Lazio v Bayern Munich: Holders out to complete another Italian job

Lazio have only lost one of their six Champions League matches against German opposition (W2 D3) and remain unbeaten at home.

However, Bayern are unbeaten in their previous five Champions League away games against Italian sides (W3 D2). Their two visits to Stadio Olimpico in the competition have produced 13 goals, including a 7-1 victory against Roma in October 2014.

The Bavarian giants have reached the knockout stages for the 13th consecutive season, only Real Madrid (24) and Barcelona (17) are on longer runs.

Bayern have also won 16 of their past 17 Champions League games (D1), with an overall goal difference of +48 (61 goals for, 13 against) – that is four more wins than any other side over that period (Paris Saint-Germain have won 12).

While Ciro Immobile – eight goals in nine Champions League starts – will be Lazio's dangerman, Bayern's talisman needs no introduction.

Robert Lewandowski has 31 goals in 33 Champions League appearances since the start of 2017-18, more than any other player – Cristiano Ronaldo is second with 29 in 34 outings.

Michael Ballack has no doubt Bayern Munich will tackle Lazio in a professional manner when their Champions League campaign resumes this week.

European champions Bayern are aiming to take the next step towards back-to-back continental crowns when they travel to Rome for the first leg of a last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Hansi Flick's men have been in poor form since their return from winning the Club World Cup in Qatar, slipping to a 2-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt on the back of a 3-3 draw at home to Bundesliga strugglers Arminia Bielefeld.

Nevertheless, Ballack feels focus will be sharpened once more when Bayern are faced with Simone Inzaghi's side, who lie fifth in Serie A.

"The papers make it clear who the favourites are to win this game. But that sometimes makes it dangerous," Ballack told Stats Perform News.

"Although you have to say that with Bayern Munich, their focus, structure and mentality will make it impossible to underestimate their opponent.

"This will be two games where I think they will be able to go through. The togetherness is clear, and their form is getting better again.

"That's why I think that Bayern will progress to the next round."

Experience could prove crucial, with Bayern into the knockout rounds for a 13th consecutive campaign.

In 12 of the previous 14 seasons they have progressed to at least the quarter-finals.

Hansi Flick expects Bayern Munich to be "especially motivated" for their return to Champions League action and insists he makes no excuses for the team's recent dip in form.

Die Roten followed a comeback 3-3 draw against strugglers Arminia Bielefeld with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt over the weekend.

Those results have seen Bayern's lead in the Bundesliga trimmed to just two points, with RB Leipzig now within striking distance in second place.

On Tuesday, Bayern continue the defence of their European crown with the first leg of their last-16 tie against Lazio in Rome, a match head coach Flick expects to focus some minds.

"I'm not someone who looks for excuses. The first half was not good against Bielefeld and Frankfurt. We had a lot of games, but other teams did too," Flick told a pre-match news conference.

"We need to be in top form in the Champions League. These are special matches for us and I'm expecting the team to be especially motivated.

"We have an idea of how we want to play. We want to start showing that from the start of games. I have complete confidence that the team will do that on Tuesday."

One of the few positives Bayern could take from the Frankfurt defeat was the return of Leon Goretzka, who has now recovered from coronavirus and a minor injury.

The midfielder helped contribute to an improved second-half showing after coming on as a half-time substitute and Flick intends for Goretzka to start against Lazio.

"You can't take it for granted coming back from an illness like that. He'll play from the start," he added.

"We'll see how long it can hold out. We hope he can perform like he did in his 45 minutes against Frankfurt. He's good for our game."

Flick also confirmed centre-back Niklas Sule will travel to Rome on Tuesday, adding: "We have a few players carrying knocks, Niklas Sule is one of them. 

"We gave him a recovery day today and he'll travel tomorrow."

Benjamin Pavard has tested positive for COVID-19, Bayern Munich have confirmed.

France international Pavard has begun self-isolating at home but the club said he was "in good health".

Bayern face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Lazio in Rome next Tuesday.

Hansi Flick's side are unbeaten in their nine games without Pavard this season, winning seven of those matches and conceding just eight times.

Pavard has attempted 41 crosses from open play in the Bundesliga in 2020-21, with Lucas Hernandez the only Bayern defender to have more (44).

However, only five of Pavard's deliveries have found a team-mate, compared to 15 for Hernandez.

Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez have not featured this month following positive coronavirus tests in January.

The duo, along with Serge Gnabry who has been dealing with a thigh issue, trained on Wednesday while the rest of the first team were granted a day off.

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."

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