Antonio Conte has no explanation for Alexis Sanchez's fitness issues but is frustrated by the Inter forward's "constant" injuries.

Sanchez has been out of action since just his sixth Serie A start of the season - five of which have ended with a win - against Cagliari on December 13.

The former Manchester United flop has featured in nine of Inter's 13 league games this term, scoring two goals and providing two assists in 538 minutes on the field.

Chile team-mate Arturo Vidal, who has started eight times, returned from his own injury in the final 24 minutes of Sunday's win over Spezia.

Coach Conte was asked on Tuesday, speaking ahead of the trip to Hellas Verona the following day, if the national team had contributed to the pair's problems.

Reinaldo Rueda, the Chile coach, clashed with the Nerazzurri during the November international break as both players were called up for World Cup qualifiers.

"I don't know if it's a problem for the national team or the player," Conte told a news conference. "But the constant fact is that Sanchez is often injured."

Sanchez was signed on a free transfer from United in August following an initial loan spell and attention is now turning to what business Inter can do in the January window.

Reports in Italy suggest there will need to be departures - notably Christian Eriksen - if Conte is to be able to bring in attacking reinforcements such as Alejandro Gomez or Gervinho.

But the former Italy boss was reluctant to discuss plans ahead of a meeting with the club's board.

"My evaluation is not important now," he said. "What is important is what the club has done in these four months in which we have worked.

"We will meet in the days after the match against Verona, during the Christmas period.

"It is right to have a follow-up to the meeting in August after decisions were made that were accepted by everyone. It is right to sit down and understand what solutions we have in mind and whether we want to face them."

Inter will be top of the table at Christmas should they better rivals Milan's result against Lazio on Wednesday.

However, Conte is pleased for league-leading Rossoneri coach Stefano Pioli - previously at Inter - and recognises there is work still to do for his own side.

"[Milan] are doing very well; I'm happy for Pioli," Conte said. "At a football level, we are trying to make a path that will lead to Inter at the top of the table.

"It is a path that has begun and is continuing, a path made of work, alongside a parallel corporate one, about which you would have to ask the club."

Inter responded to their Champions League loss to Real Madrid by making the most of calamitous Sassuolo defending in a 3-0 win that lifted the Nerazzurri up to second in Serie A.

Antonio Conte's men have been troubled by inconsistency this season and are on the brink of Champions League elimination, but at top-four hopefuls Sassuolo on Saturday they produced a clinical and professional display.

Inter were 2-0 up by the 14th minute as a catalogue of defensive errors led to Alexis Sanchez – partnering Lautaro Martinez in Romelu Lukaku's place – finding the net and Vlad Chiriches' own goal doubled the advantage.

Sassuolo put the visitors under pressure for much of the second half, but Inter's uncompromising rearguard kept them in charge and Roberto Gagliardini made it 3-0 as they moved to within two points of rivals and pacesetters Milan, at least until Sunday.

Inter looked every inch a team with a point to prove early on and had the lead inside four minutes.

Martinez charged down Chiriches' clearance and raced onto Sanchez's subsequent pass, flicking the ball over the approaching Andrea Consigli before outmuscling the Romanian defender and ultimately squaring for his strike partner to tap in.

Chiriches' day got even worse soon after as he headed Arturo Vidal's fierce volley into his own net.

Sassuolo eventually forced Samir Handanovic into a couple of saves via Rogerio and Jeremy Toljan late in the half, though neither were particularly demanding.

But the home side struggled to make the most of their greater share of the possession and the game was effectively put beyond them with an hour played.

Gagliardini latched onto the bouncing ball just inside Sassuolo's penalty area and stabbed a clever volleyed finish into the bottom-left corner.

Lukaku was brought on with 10 minutes to go and quickly found the net after being fed by Arturo Vidal, though an offside call spared Sassuolo.

What does it mean? Inter finding consistency in Serie A as Conte gets it right

While their Champions League form is certainly an area of concern, having claimed just two points from four games, Inter are now unbeaten in five Serie A matches since losing to Milan on October 17.

It was not so long ago that doubts over Conte's future were being raised, but it is fair to say he got his set-up spot-on here. Inter were perfectly happy to allow the hosts to dictate possession, having just 35 per cent themselves, yet they still managed 11 shots and – crucially – scored three times.

Sassuolo were unbeaten in the league this term before Saturday. A 3-0 win in their own stadium is a fine feat for Inter.

Skriniar helps keep Sassuolo at bay

Although Inter scored three times, their defence was arguably more crucial than the attack. Milan Skriniar was the standout. The Slovakia international looked to be on the way out at the start of the season due to concerns over his suitability for Conte's system, but he showed his worth again here, making a couple of interceptions and a match-high eight clearances, while he was also tidy in possession.

An unfortunate day for Chiriches

So calamitous was Chiriches' start to the game that it was going to take something special to redeem him. He was not just at fault for the clearance before Sanchez's opener, he was also the defender knocked over by Martinez in the same passage of play, while he then put into his own goal.

He certainly tried to get back on track given he won 63 per cent of a team-high eight first-half duels, completed 90 per cent of his 40 passes and made two tackles and clearances, but injury ended his day just before the interval.

What's next?

Inter go to Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday knowing anything other than a win will see them dumped out of the Champions League, they then host Bologna in Serie A next Saturday. Sassuolo go to Roma a week on Sunday.

Romelu Lukaku inspired a remarkable second-half comeback as Inter recovered from 2-0 down to defeat Torino 4-2 and claim their first win for almost a month.

Marco Giampaolo's Torino came into the match with a solitary Serie A win to their name this season but belied that meagre return as the effervescent Simone Zaza crowned an enterprising first-half display with the opening goal.

A penalty from former Inter man Cristian Ansaldi made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute, although Alexis Sanchez swiftly reduced the arrears.

Sanchez turned provider for Lukaku to level in the 67th minute and the Belgium star kept his cool from the spot six minutes from the end of normal time, before Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to make it four shots on target and four goals for Inter in a crazy second half.

Inter struggled throughout the opening period and had a reprieve as Alessandro Bastoni hauled down Zaza when in on goal, only for the Torino forward to be penalised for handball.

Conte's men could not claim a lack of fair warning when Zaza latched on to Soualiho Meite's backheel in stoppage time and lashed a brilliant left-footed strike past Samir Handanovic.

Despite resuming on the front foot, Inter reached the hour without testing Salvatore Sirigu in the Torino goal, at which point their task got steeper.

After a long delay and a VAR review, Ashley Young was correctly penalised for kicking Wilfried Stephane Singo in the chest when he misjudged a clearance and Ansaldi dispatched his penalty down the middle of the goal.

That belatedly sparked Inter into life, with Lukaku driving at the Torino defence and hitting the bar, before making enough of a nuisance of himself in the ensuing scramble for Sanchez to thump into an unguarded net.

Torino were suddenly rattled and after Lukaku hit the outside of the post he tapped in Sanchez's low cross.

Nicolas Nkoulou became the latest defender to kick flesh – Achraf Hakimi, in his case – rather than the ball and the VAR call was consistent, leaving Lukaku to send Sirigu the wrong way.

The ex-Manchester United man then linked with Ivan Perisic in the sweeping move that got Martinez on the scoresheet via a simple finish.

 

Romelu Lukaku inspired a remarkable second-half comeback as Inter recovered from 2-0 down to defeat Torino 4-2 and claim their first win for almost a month.

Marco Giampaolo's Torino came into the match with a solitary Serie A win to their name this season but belied that meagre return as the effervescent Simone Zaza crowned an enterprising first-half display with the opening goal.

A penalty from former Inter man Cristian Ansaldi made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute, although Alexis Sanchez swiftly reduced the arrears.

Sanchez turned provider for Lukaku to level in the 67th minute and the Belgium star kept his cool from the spot six minutes from the end of normal time, before Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to make it four shots on target and four goals for Inter in a crazy second half.

Reinaldo Rueda assured Chile took no risks with their use of Alexis Sanchez against Peru, despite a public dispute with Inter over his presence in the squad.

Sanchez this week was forced to leave a Chile training session early with a muscular issue and Rueda criticised Inter's management of the attacker's physical condition.

The club have not hidden their feeling that their players should not be travelling for international matches during a pandemic, claiming the games often lead to injuries amid a congested schedule.

Rueda accused the club of a lack of respect and the Nerazzurri responded by calling his comments "unacceptable, offensive and not corresponding to reality".

Sanchez started on the bench for Friday's 2-0 victory over Peru in the CONMEBOL 2022 World Cup qualifying section and was sent on in the 84th minute, replacing Felipe Mora.

"We talked with Alexis and the medical team about his situation. If we could give him 15 or 20 minutes it was very important," said Rueda.

"He came on and played well in a key stage of the game. It was important for him to gain continuity and confidence without taking risks."

Chile's win was secured by a pair of first-half goals from captain Arturo Vidal, the first of which was a sensational 25-yard strike that flew into the top-right corner.

"He assumed the captaincy with great integrity. The dressing room respects him, because of his experience, the heart he has," said Rueda.

"Arturo's decision and daring to risk allowed us to embrace one another, but Peru never made the game or the possibility to score easy for us."

Vidal's double moved him onto 31 international goals, taking him clear of Carlos Caszely for sole ownership of fifth in La Roja's all-time scoring chart.

However, with Chile having taken one point from their opening two qualifiers it was the win that pleased him more.

"I'm happy for that [surpassing Caszely], but the most important thing is the team, fighting to go to another World Cup. That is more important than the goals," said Vidal.

"I want to congratulate my team-mates for the game we played, against a very strong team which have been playing very well in recent years.

"The first half we played much better, we looked to control the game. The second cost us a bit, we backed down a little, but the important thing was to get the three points and gain confidence."

Peru were unable to recover and record a third straight win against Chile for the first time, having triumphed in their previous two encounters 3-0.

They have now lost six of their past seven against La Roja in World Cup qualifying games.

Inter have issued a statement hitting back at Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda, who claimed the Nerazzurri have overworked Alexis Sanchez.

The Serie A club have become embroiled in a spat with Chile over Sanchez, with the club believing their players should not be involved in international action during the coronavirus pandemic.

Inter say the fixtures put their star men at further risk of injury amid a congested fixture schedule this season.

Chile face Peru and Venezuela in 2022 World Cup qualifiers over the course of this international break, with Sanchez – who has clocked up 251 minutes in all competitions for Inter this term – a key part of their side.

Rueda accused the Nerazzurri of showing a lack of respect regarding the matter, but the Serie A giants have now responded, saying they found the coach's comments "unacceptable, offensive and not corresponding to reality".

A club statement added: "The club has always had the utmost collaboration and excellent relations with all the staff of the national teams.

"In the particular case of Alexis Sanchez, the player has encountered a physical problem in almost every call-up with his national team. 

"In one of these, he suffered a serious injury that kept him away from the pitch for three months. This represented a serious sporting damage for the club, which has always been attentive to the health of its players."

Alexis Sanchez has not been ruled out of the derby between Inter and Milan despite returning from international duty with a muscle strain.

Sanchez and Chilean compatriot Arturo Vidal were the last of Inter's players to return following their participation in a pair of South American World Cup qualifying games for their country.

Both were on target in a 2-2 draw with Colombia on Tuesday, though Sanchez may be reduced to the role of spectator for the Milan derby.

Speaking at a media conference, Inter coach Antonio Conte said: "He came back with a muscle strain last night [Thursday].

"We will do some evaluations today during training. It is inevitable that we will be very careful because this is the first of a cycle of seven games that will be played every three days.

"We will take the right risk, that's for sure. If Sanchez will be available it is because he will give guarantees and because he himself takes the responsibility of saying that he is fine."

Asked by a member of the Chilean press about reports Sanchez had already been ruled out, Conte replied: "He was visited today by doctors, he is to be evaluated during training by hearing his opinion and feeling with his body, and possibly with fatigue, then we will make decisions. Nothing is ruled out at the moment."

Conte will have to alter his preparations for Saturday's game given the tight turnaround from the international fixtures.

He said: "Surely if I had had the possibility to choose, I would have preferred to have at least one more day to prepare, but we know that there are calendars to be respected, nationally and internationally, and we will adapt.

"We will prepare the game today, we will not have much time between video analysis and the blackboard to shorten the training a little, which should not be too intense and demanding since they played a short time ago."

The derby would normally be contested amid a cacophonous atmosphere at San Siro, with the stakes of this famous fixture only heightened by the two sides' respective strong starts to the new season.

Milan have a 100 per cent record in Serie A with three wins from three, while Inter are also unbeaten but two points behind the Rossoneri.

"Playing without an audience is not nice," said Conte. "We work, we sweat just to satisfy the people who come to the stadium, who often and willingly give up something from their private life to pay for the ticket.

"We are sorry that there is not this possibility, this exchange of emotions, between those who play during the match and the fan in the stands.

"I repeat a concept again: let's try to be as collaborative and proactive as possible to get out of this situation. We help those who have to make decisions.

"To the fans, who were important in the comeback in the last derby, I say that we will always give our best for the colours of our jersey."

Inter have confirmed the signing of Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez on a permanent deal.

Sanchez has put pen to paper on a three-year deal with the Serie A club following a successful season-long loan with Antonio Conte's side.

The 31-year-old Chile international joined United from Premier League rivals Arsenal in 2018, but failed to show what he is capable of at Old Trafford.

Sanchez is reported to have joined Inter on a free transfer after United ripped up his contract, which was said to earn him an astonishing £560,000-a-week.

He scored four goals in 29 appearances for the Nerazzurri following his switch to San Siro last August.

Sanchez found the back of the net only five times in 45 matches for the Red Devils after arriving at the club in January 2018 in a deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move to Arsenal.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed that Sanchez would be heading back to Inter following a 2-1 Europa League last-16 second leg victory over LASK on Wednesday.

"I can confirm that he's agreed and we've agreed. Alexis enjoyed his time there," he said. 

"They've liked him, so of course that's a good move for him. Wish him all the best. He's a top player that we want to see play his best football.

"For whatever reason, we didn't see the best of Alexis, but he's a top professional and we just wish him all the best."

Antonio Conte was delighted to welcome the imminent news of Alexis Sanchez's permanent transfer to Inter after helping the forward recover from "the worst moment of his career". 

Inter are set to announce the deal for Sanchez from Manchester United on a three-year deal on Thursday, though the move was revealed prior to their Europa League clash with beat Getafe. 

The Chile international endured a dismal 18-month spell at Old Trafford before leaving United on loan at the start of this season, recovering both form and fitness at San Siro. 

Nerazzurri CEO Giuseppe Marotta confirmed the situation regarding Sanchez's future in a media interview prior to the Getafe match on Wednesday. 

And speaking after a 2-0 win that sent Inter through to the last eight, the transfer had raised head coach Conte's spirits. 

"I think the Sanchez transfer is a very good move by the club," Conte told Sky Italia. "Considering the conditions in which we managed to get Alexis, it was a really good transfer. 

"The club deserve credit because he came at the worst moment of his career. He arrived after two difficult years when he was really struggling at United and then got injured with us. 

"We took the time to get him back on track, so it is only right for Inter to enjoy it and reap the rewards of that effort." 

Sanchez was a second-half substitute against Getafe in what had been set to be the final match of his loan stint. 

Former United striker Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring before half-time, with Christian Eriksen clinching progress to the quarter-finals with a late second goal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed Alexis Sanchez will join Inter on a permanent deal but would not be drawn on Manchester United's pursuit of Jadon Sancho. 

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said on Wednesday that he expected to announce the signing of Sanchez, who has been on loan at San Siro this season, on a three-year contract on Thursday. 

Speaking after United's 2-1 win over LASK in the last-16 second leg of the Europa League, Solskjaer wished Sanchez well in Italy, where he has begun to rediscover his form after a torrid time at Old Trafford. 

"I can confirm that he's agreed and we've agreed," Solskjaer said. "Alexis enjoyed his time there. 

"They've liked him, so of course that's a good move for him. Wish him all the best. He's a top player that we want to see play his best football. 

"For whatever reason, we didn't see the best of Alexis, but he's a top professional and we just wish him all the best." 

With Sanchez leaving, the number seven shirt will become vacant at United as they attempt to strike a deal to bring in Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. 

The England star is said to be keen on a move to the Premier League, but Dortmund have been holding out for a sizeable transfer fee, reportedly at least €110million. 

United are believed to be unwilling to sanction such spending amid the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are eager to reduce Dortmund's asking price, while hoping to pay some of the fee in installments or bonuses. 

Solskjaer insisted there was no update in terms of United's pursuit of transfer targets, though. 

"We're looking into all transfers differently," he said. "I'm not going to speak about individuals that are not our players, so no news, no updates. 

"We'll update you if something happens."

Alexis Sanchez will officially become an Inter player on a permanent basis on Thursday, according to the club's chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.

Sanchez has spent 2019-20 on loan at Inter from Manchester United, scoring four goals and providing eight assists across 22 Serie A appearances as Antonio Conte's side finished second behind Juventus.

Reports emerged this week suggesting United would terminate the Chilean's contract at Old Trafford, which was believed to be worth £500,000 per week.

These claims were confirmed on Wednesday, with Marotta revealing the 31-year-old had agreed a three-year deal with Inter.

"Unofficially - we'll make it official tomorrow morning - the player is entirely owned by Inter," he told Sky Italia ahead of Inter's Europa League clash with Getafe in Germany.

"We have a contract with him for three seasons. We believe in him, that he can be a strong part of this squad, and are happy to have concluded this deal."

Sanchez was named on the bench against Getafe for what had been set to be the final match of his loan spell.

The forward has enjoyed a resurgence in Italy following a desperate 18-month stint at Old Trafford.

After staring for Arsenal, January 2018 signing Sanchez failed to impress for United and scored just five goals in all competitions.

News of Sanchez's signing comes after head coach Conte hit out at Inter's hierarchy for not protecting his squad enough this season.

However, Marotta revealed Inter's chiefs have held discussions with Conte amid doubts over his future.

"We are all concentrated on this evening, which is an important match," he added. "Conte gave a very clear statement yesterday and we refer you to that.

"Anyone in the football world knows that these dynamics exist and we have to live with this way of doing things. This is an important evening for the future of Inter.

"The owners spoke to Conte yesterday and we all want the same thing, which is to achieve great objectives and make the fans happy."

Alexis Sanchez will officially become an Inter player on a permanent basis on Thursday, according to the club's chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.

Things seem to be moving quickly at Manchester United and Jadon Sancho could be on his way to Old Trafford.

Sancho, 20, has been heavily linked with a move to several Premier League giants this close season after starring for Borussia Dortmund.

And a switch to United appears to be close, latest reports indicate.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD TO PAY €120M FOR SANCHO

Borussia Dortmund expect Manchester United to pay £107.9million (€120m) for Sancho in instalments, according to Sport Bild.

Its report says the Bundesliga club are prepared to accept that as long as the offer is submitted by August 10.

Sancho scored 20 goals in 44 games in all competitions for Dortmund in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Manchester United and Alexis Sanchez is reportedly set for a permanent exit. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Inter and United have reached an agreement over Sanchez, saying he will make his move to the Serie A club permanent on a free, signing a three-year deal worth €7m per year.

- Barcelona are still looking to raise funds. Sport reports the LaLiga club's main transfer targets are Inter star Lautaro Martinez and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia. Meanwhile, Sport also says Barca rejected a £54m (€60m) bid from a Premier League club for 20-year-old forward Francisco Trincao.

- While Manchester City are reportedly set to sign Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, the Premier League giants are apparently still looking to strengthen elsewhere at the back. ESPN reports City are still interested in Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, as well as Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

- There remains uncertainty over Antonio Conte's future at Inter, according to reports. Fabrizio Romano says the head coach held a call with president Steven Zhang with a decision to be made after the Europa League.

- With Willian coming out of contract at Chelsea at the end of the season, the attacker is apparently attracting plenty of interest. France Football reports Arsenal have offered Willian the best deal with their three-year offer.

- Idrissa Gueye could be on his way out of Paris Saint-Germain after just one season. Le 10 Sport reports the Ligue 1 champions want to sell the midfielder, who has been linked to Manchester United and Wolves.

Inter could not afford Lionel Messi and any suggestion of them signing the Barcelona superstar is "utopian", according to chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.

There was a stir in Milan and beyond on Tuesday when a picture of Messi projected onto the city's cathedral circulated on social media.

Italian media said Inter's majority owners, Suning, used the image to publicise the televising of Inter's game against Napoli in China.

It is not the first time there has been speculation Inter could be interested in Messi.

However, Marotta, who is hopeful Alexis Sanchez could stay with the club next season, cannot see how Inter could make any deal for Argentinian superstar Messi happen.

Marotta told Sky Sport Italia: "Messi on the cathedral? It wasn't my idea. It reminds me of football from the past with such situations. We are talking about an icon, a great player, a desire that everyone has."

He stressed it would be "extraordinary to see such a champion at Inter", adding: "It's fantasy football, a utopian situation."

Marotta added: "Our football [in Italy] needs a lift. Champions raise the value of the Italian brand and football. If we could consider ours to be a championship in which the great champions come and stay, it would be better.

"No Italian team is capable of carrying out such an operation unless extraordinary factors arise related to the shareholders, and therefore the actual owners.

"Let's not forget that we must respect FFP [Financial Fair Play]. This year, COVID has ensured that there is some flexibility, but afterwards the rules will have to be respected.

"Suning has already injected many millions into the company. Today investments have to give continuity and be done with a project."

Marotta said Inter must look to "raise the bar" next season, in Antonio Conte's second campaign as head coach.

Whether Sanchez remains at the club remains to be seen, given the on-loan Chilean forward has two years remaining on a lucrative Manchester United contract.

"It is not easy," Marotta said, pointing to Sanchez's United's terms.

The intention is nevertheless there on Inter's part to push for an extension to Sanchez's stay, with Marotta saying: "We would like to have him with us today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow."

Manchester United are reportedly keeping an eye on Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak, while Real Madrid want to raise €180million in transfer funds.

Amid pressure on David de Gea, United could look elsewhere for a goalkeeper.

It seems one of the world's best is on their radar.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD CONSIDER OBLAK

Manchester United are keeping tabs on Atletico Madrid star Oblak, according to The Sun.

Oblak, 27, is widely considered one of the world's best goalkeepers after starring across six seasons at Atletico.

The speculation comes with De Gea under pressure at Old Trafford following several mistakes this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid want to raise funds in the transfer market. Marca reports they are looking to make €180m, with James Rodriguez and Luka Jovic potentially making exits. It says a potential move for Gareth Bale, who is contracted until 2022, is more complicated.

- Kingsley Coman is reportedly a target for Manchester United. However, Sport Bild reports Bayern Munich rejected an approach from Manchester City for the attacker and they would do likewise to United.

- At rivals Barcelona, the focus seems to be on renewing some young stars. Sport reports the LaLiga giants are trying to re-sign Ansu Fati, Ronald Araujo, Riqui Puig and Alex Collado.

- Manchester United want to resolve the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling. Sky Sports reports the Premier League club will not extend the loans of Sanchez, at Inter, and Smalling, at Roma, but are looking to seal permanent deals. Meanwhile, the Daily Record says United want to remain informed about offers for Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes.

- Amid speculation over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal may need a forward this close season. Le 10 Sport reports the Premier League club are considering a move for Wolves star Raul Jimenez.

- Victor Osimhen is set for Napoli. CalcioMercato reports a deal for the Lille forward is done and Napoli will pay €60m for the Nigeria international.

- After six seasons at Liverpool, Dejan Lovren is reportedly set for an exit. The Guardian reports the Croatian defender is close to joining Zenit for €12m (£10.9m).

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