Lecce and Cremonese have earned promotion to Serie A following an eventful final day of action in Italy's second tier.

Cremonese are back in the top tier of Italian football for the first time since 1995-96, while Lecce return after a two-season absence.

Four teams were battling it out for the two automatic promotion spots on Friday, with Monza and Pisa also in contention.

Lecce led the way at the summit entering the final round of games and beat bottom side Pordenone 1-0 at home through a Zan Majer goal to see the job through.

Monza knew that they would join Lecce in the top flight had they defeated Perugia, but Gabriele Ferrarini's goal in the final five minutes condemned them to a shock 1-0 defeat.

Cremonese took full advantage by seeing off Como 2-1 at Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia thanks to a couple of goals from Samuel Di Carmine.

That rendered Pisa's 2-1 victory at Frosinone meaningless in terms of the race for automatic promotion, with the Nerazzurri having to settle for a play-off semi-final spot.

Perugia's win against Lecce saw them book a play-off quarter-final place, where Brescia await, while Ascoli will meet Benevento.

It was just as lively at the opposite end of the division, meanwhile, as there was a three-way fight to avoid the one remaining relegation place.

Alessandria's 1-0 loss to fellow strugglers Vincenza saw them join Pordenone and Crotone in dropping out of the division.

Transfer deadline day has already been a busy one, even if the biggest move of all was one that was expected.

Manchester United, Juventus and West Ham have all made moves, while changes are expected at Arsenal and Tottenham before the window closes.

There is also a good chance of a young France star joining Real Madrid – but it's not Kylian Mbappe.

Here is a round-up of some of the deadline-day deals, and what could be coming...

Ronaldo in, Cavani out?

The biggest deal of the day was concluded early, as Manchester United completed the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus for an initial £12.9million (€15m).

The Portugal star dedicated his return to Old Trafford to Alex Ferguson after his two-year contract was announced by the Red Devils.

Ronaldo's arrival has complicated things for Edinson Cavani, though. The striker was convinced to spend another year at the club by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after impressing last season, but his pre-season was disrupted due to personal reasons and he did not start any of United's first three league games of the season.

There are reports Barcelona are interested in signing Cavani as Ronald Koeman is desperate for another striker, but the Red Devils are expected to resist offers unless they are particularly lucrative. Of course, if Cavani does leave, it would free up the number seven shirt for Ronaldo.

United's business is mostly concluded but Dan James is expected to sign for Leeds United on deadline day for a reported £25m.

Real Madrid close to Camavinga

With Kylian Mbappe apparently not going to get his move in this window, Real Madrid have turned their attentions to Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who is expected to sign for Carlo Ancelotti's side before the deadline.

With Mbappe staying put at Paris Saint-Germain for now, any dramatic late offer for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland looks unlikely. BVB have in fact bolstered their squad, signing Marin Pongracic on loan from Wolfsburg.

Kean and Vlasic on the move

Juventus moved quickly to confirm Ronaldo's replacement, announcing a two-year loan with a potential obligation to buy for Everton striker Moise Kean. Kean returns to Turin for an initial €7m (£6m) after having left for the Toffees two years ago.

There was also video footage early on Tuesday of Junior Messias arriving for a medical at Milan, the 30-year-old apparently poised to sign on loan from Crotone.

Croatia international Nikola Vlasic has secured his move to West Ham from CSKA Moscow for a fee said to be worth £25m. His arrival would appear to cast doubt on any further bid from the Hammers for Jesse Lingard, who impressed on loan last season.

Brighton and Hove Albion have also been active, signing Getafe left-back Marc Cucurella – formerly of Barca – after the Seagulls matched his €18m (£15.5m) release clause.

Leicester City are said to be exploring the opportunity to bring in Ademola Lookman on loan from RB Leipzig, while Odsonne Eduoard is close to a move to Crystal Palace from Celtic.

Spurs and Arsenal still active – but will Chelsea spend again?

Tottenham are expected to complete a deal for Barca's Emerson Royal for around £25.8m (€30m). That sale could give Barca just a little leg room when it comes to pursuing the striker Koeman wants.

There are also likely to be changes at Arsenal. With Hector Bellerin tipped to sign for Real Betis on loan, the Gunners are said to be close to signing Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna.

Meanwhile, Reiss Nelson could be on the verge of a loan move to Feyenoord, who had agreed to sign Amad Diallo from Manchester United for the rest of the season until the winger suffered a thigh injury.

Chelsea have already spent huge money on Romelu Lukaku, but it remains to be seen whether a loan for Saul Niguez or a permanent deal for Jules Kounde could be concluded.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Inter players have formed a "team of granite" and will deservedly take their place in the club's history, according to head coach Antonio Conte.

The Nerazzurri overcame Crotone 2-0 on Saturday – a result that relegated Serse Cosmi's side – and they will end an 11-year wait to win a Scudetto if second-placed Atalanta fail to win at Sassuolo on Sunday.

The runaway leaders had been frustrated against Crotone, twice hitting the woodwork before Christian Eriksen put them ahead in the 69th minute.

Achraf Hakimi added a second in stoppage time as Inter moved to within touching distance of the Serie A title.

Conte is thrilled with his players' efforts this season and says they deserve all the plaudits that will come their way when they end Juventus' nine-season dominance of the Italian top flight.

"I think our campaign comes from a constant growth from the team in every area, including mentality, the sharing of a vision and experiencing it intensely," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Those who play or are on the bench have formed a team made of granite.

"We know that we can remain in the history of Inter because we are effectively bringing down a nine-year reign. This is satisfying and the players deserve congratulations.

"We needed to go through this journey in order to win and be considered winners. There are sacrifices to be made, a culture to be developed, and at times giving up so much in order to achieve something extraordinary.

"Not everyone is prepared to do that. I found many players here who all wanted to get on the same boat and work together to become part of Inter history.

"I told the players, 'if you win, then you'll be in the history of this club. If you don't, then you can spend three, seven or more years here and be just one of the many.’

"I didn't have to convince them very hard; they were already on board."

While Inter can be crowned as early as Sunday, Conte suggested he would prefer his side to seal the triumph themselves when they face Sampdoria next weekend.

"We know that we're on the verge and are quite relaxed about it," he explained. "I don't think it's right to depend on someone else. We've got such a big gap that we know it's all our own work and we don't have to thank anyone for a result. It's all still in our hands."

Conte faced some hostility when he took over ahead of the 2019-20 season given his association with Juventus, for whom he both played for and coached with distinction.

The 51-year-old acknowledged it has been a challenge at times but believes he has done enough to win over any dissenting supporters.

"I made the most difficult choice by coming to Inter," he said. "Many would've hidden behind history, but I love a challenge and came here to challenge myself.

"I remain a fan of every club I worked for, but I am the ultimate fan of the club where I work right now, always. I realise it wasn't easy for me to enter the hearts of all Inter fans, but I have always given my all for the team I work for.

"I think I really challenged myself this time and I am rewarded with a team that is doing something extraordinary."

Christian Eriksen and Achraf Hakimi put Inter on the brink of securing the Serie A title with second-half goals in a 2-0 victory at Crotone.

The runaway leaders had been frustrated against a relegated side who are bottom of the table until Eriksen struck just a few minutes after coming on midway through the second half on Saturday.

Romelu Lukaku struck the woodwork and had a goal ruled out, while Lautaro Martinez hit the post, but Eriksen opened the scoring with a deflected drive and Hakimi sealed all three points with the last kick of the game.

Victory at Stadio Ezio Scida ensured the Nerazzurri will end an 11-year wait to win a Scudetto if second-placed Atalanta fail to win at Sassuolo on Sunday.

Adam Ounas forced a save from Samir Handanovic and Stefano Sensi's shot deflected wide at the other end in a frantic start.

Sensi was denied by Alex Cordaz from a tight angle when the midfielder was presented with another early opportunity before he whipped in a corner that Lukaku headed against the post.

Martinez's right-footed strike rattled off the inside of the post and Cordaz palmed away another effort from Sensi as the Nerazzurri somehow failed to open the scoring in the first half.

Battling Crotone got everyone behind the ball in what resembled a training exercise with Inter continuing to probe after the break, Sensi's scuffed strike gathered by Cordaz after his free-kick struck the wall.

Antonio Conte made a triple substitution after 65 minutes and Eriksen made just the impact he was hoping for soon after coming on.

Lukaku showed great strength before laying the ball off to the Denmark midfielder, whose right-footed drive from around 20 yards out deflected into the corner of the net.

Leading scorer Lukaku had a goal disallowed for offside seven minutes from time but Hakimi put the icing on the cake with a second goal right at the end, finishing off a counter-attack with a clinical finish.

Andrea Pirlo vowed Juventus will "fight until the end" to retain their Serie A title after Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Crotone.

Ronaldo had gone three games without goal but headed home a first-half double as Juve claimed a first win in four matches.

Weston McKennie was also on target as the champions dominated sorry bottom side Crotone, registering 27 shots in a one-sided encounter at Allianz Stadium on Monday.

Victory for Juve moved them up to third place, eight points behind leaders Inter with a game in hand.

Head coach Pirlo was pleased with the way the Bianconeri got back on track and says they are ready to roll up their sleeves and battle in the title race.

He told Sky Sport Italia: "The last two games had left us with some nerves, then luckily we managed to straighten the situation and we managed the game well."

Pirlo added: "All the teams chasing [Inter] are genuine rivals, we will try to fight until the end."

Ronaldo was among the Juve players who were guilty of wasting glorious chances, the Portugal captain only hitting the target with four of his 11 shots, and Pirlo expects the Turin giants to be more clinical in their pursuit of more trophies.

The former Italy playmaker said: "We have created a lot, it's a pity we didn't take so many chances. The important thing is to create, the goals will come."

Pirlo picked out Rodrigo Bentancur for praise after he gifted Porto an early goal in a 2-1 Champions League defeat for Juve last week.

"The midfield did well. Bentancur played without training," the Juve boss said. "Those who played tonight did well with a positive and proactive attitude.

"Bentancur was good and deserves applause because it was not easy to return to the field after the mistake against Porto."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a first-half double as Juventus ended a run of three games without a win by beating bottom side Crotone 3-0 to go third in Serie A.

Ronaldo had failed to find the back of the net in those three winless matches, but normal service was resumed as the prolific forward took his tally for the season to 25 goals at Allianz Stadium on Monday.

The Portugal captain headed home twice in the first half and should have had a hat-trick prior to the interval as Crotone were outclassed by the champions.

Weston McKennie added a third in the second half as Juve moved eight points behind leaders Inter with a game in hand, while Crotone look destined for relegation following a fifth consecutive defeat.

Crotone almost took a stunning early lead when Arkadiusz Reca volleyed wide at the far post after Danilo slipped while attempting to deal with Junior Messias' cross.

Ronaldo drilled a free-kick from just outside the penalty area into the wall and cut a frustrated figure once again when he failed hit the target from point-blank range after Alex Cordaz got a fingertip on Federico Chiesa's dangerous cross.

Matthijs de Ligt volleyed narrowly wide and Aaron Ramsey headed an inviting centre from the lively Chiesa against the crossbar before Ronaldo finally opened the scoring.

The former Real Madrid man headed home Alex Sandro's pinpoint cross 38 minutes in, then rose to powerfully nod in Ramsey's delivery in first-half stoppage time before somehow firing wide of an open goal moments later with Crotone all at sea defensively.

Ronaldo wanted a penalty when he felt Lisandro Magallan had upended him as he shot tamely wide of the near post before Gianluigi Buffon prevented Junior Messias from pulling a goal back.

Cordaz kept out Ronaldo’s drive with his feet, but he had no chance when McKennie rifled home a loose ball as Crotone failed to deal with a 66th-minute corner.

Ramsey should have added a fourth but the busy Cordaz saved with his feet again and Federico Bernardeschi fired just over the bar against his former club as Juve put sorry Crotone to the sword.

Andrea Pirlo is not overly concerned by Juventus' poor run of form, although he knows his team must return to winning ways when they face Crotone on Monday.

Juve have not won in three matches in all competitions, following up a 0-0 Coppa Italia draw with Inter – which nevertheless secured their place in the final – with defeats to Napoli in Serie A and Porto in the Champions League.

Their performance against Porto was particularly lacklustre, but Pirlo believes the fixture congestion since the turn of the year is a major factor.

The Bianconeri played nine times in January and have been in action on a further five occasions in February, with two games every week in 2021 until now.

"I speak with the president after every game. We spoke after the game at Porto and he didn't intervene this week," Pirlo told a news conference on Sunday.

"We knew we had played a bad game, there was no reason for him to reproach the team. I raised my voice during half-time in Porto, I didn't like how we played and I didn't like the reaction.

"We switched off at the beginning of the second half and we've been analysing the mistakes this week. There's no reason to raise your voice when you know you didn't do well.

"The players must transform their disappointment into energy for tomorrow's game.

"I am not worried, we had won 11 games out of 13. It was normal to have a drop; unfortunately, we had it in a decisive moment after many games.

"It's normal not to be always focused when you play 15 games in 40 days – it's like we played half of a season in one month and a half.

"We knew it would be an intense season, we are here and we must fight for our targets."

Next opponents Crotone sit rock bottom of Serie A, with just three wins from their 22 games so far, although they are unbeaten in their past two league matches against Juve.

While the strugglers have only once avoided defeat in three successive games against a single top-flight opponent, the Bianconeri have failed to win four of their past seven league meetings with promoted sides.

"It's an important game to continue our path in the title race. It's going to be a tough game because Crotone are not going through a good moment, but they play well," Pirlo added.

"They've kept their philosophy and they are trying to impose themselves in every game."

Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored since February 6 but will look to make Crotone the 78th different side he has netted against in Europe's 'top five' league; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (79) has scored against more such individual opponents since 2000.

Ronaldo has netted against each of the 17 current Serie A teams he has faced in so far, yet Pirlo said the former Real Madrid superstar is still working hard to improve his free-kick taking.

Since his arrival at Juve in 2018, Ronaldo has attempted 44 shots directly from free-kicks in the league but scored only once.

"Free-kick goals are important, they can decide games, especially against teams that sit deep," Pirlo said.

"Ronaldo is training well and is improving. He is calm and he is convinced he is soon going to score from a free-kick."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said evergreen star Zlatan Ibrahimovic "doesn't have to stop" at 500 goals after reaching the landmark figure in his club career.

Ibrahimovic passed 500 club goals in Milan's 4-0 Serie A rout of Crotone, increasing his tally to 501 with his sixth league brace of the season on Sunday.

The 39-year-old opened the scoring after half an hour before doubling the lead with 26 minutes remaining at San Siro, where Ante Rebic netted a quick-fire double as Milan returned to the top of the table.

"There's no need to add anything. We just have to congratulate with him," Pioli told reporters.

"It's an unbelievable milestone but we are talking of an absolute number one, he is a champion. I just want to congratulate him again and send him a message.

"He doesn't have to stop at that number."

Only with Paris Saint-Germain (156) has Ibrahimovic scored more goals in all competitions, having managed 83 for Milan across two spells.

Ibrahimovic is one of the two players, alongside Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, to have scored the most braces in the top five European leagues in 2020-21.

The former Sweden international has scored 14 Serie A goals in 11 appearances this season, while he has 16 across all competitions.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not immediately looking to celebrate his latest achievement on Sunday after passing 500 club career goals in Milan's 4-0 defeat of Crotone.

The veteran Rossoneri striker increased his tally to 501 in club action with his sixth Serie A brace of the season at San Siro.

The first of Ibrahimovic's two strikes, assisted by Rafael Leao, arrived 15 minutes before the break to belatedly bring up the milestone.

The 39-year-old had been stuck on 499 for almost two weeks after a red card against Inter and a missed penalty at Bologna.

Ibrahimovic was asked by Sky Sport at half-time of his accomplishment but was not interested in discussing personal glory.

"It means I've scored a few goals in my career," he said. "But the important thing is to help the team. My job is to score."

Ibrahimovic added his second following the restart, and Ante Rebic then also netted a double, teed up twice by Hakan Calhanoglu in the space of 70 seconds.

Meanwhile, Milan kept their eighth league clean sheet of the season, a division high.

Coach Stefano Pioli was therefore keen to share the praise around at full-time, even as he hailed Ibrahimovic's efforts.

"He has great qualities and is a champion who is doing well," Pioli said. "He has great ambition and is competitive, which is why he always manages to stay at high levels.

"But let's not forget all the others who are all doing their best. There is still a lot to do and let's not get excited, because the difficult moments are yet to come."

Victory moved Milan back above rivals Inter at the summit, two points clear again despite losing two of their prior three home games.

Pioli added: "I believe that the growth of the team is in the right direction.

"We are a young but responsible group, always giving our best, every day, without being influenced by others and critics.

"Expectations rise and that is merited. We welcome it. Now we have to hold up."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic went past the 500-goal mark as his double strike in a 4-0 win over lowly Crotone sent Milan back to the top of Serie A.

Ibrahimovic rammed home a fine finish to put Milan in front at the break, reaching a new landmark in his outstanding club career.

The 39-year-old netted a close-range second that sparked a flood of goals midway through the second half, as Ante Rebic scored twice in 70 seconds.

Inter had replaced their city rivals at the top after winning at Fiorentina on Friday, but Stefano Pioli's man reasserted their authority in a gripping title battle.

Antonio Conte called on Arturo Vidal to improve after conceding a penalty that gave Inter brief concern in their 6-2 win over Crotone.

The Nerazzurri were ultimately comfortable victors at San Siro on Sunday as Lautaro Martinez scored their first perfect hat-trick since Mauro Icardi's against Atalanta in March 2017.

However, Inter had been level at 2-2 at half-time following Vidal's needless error.

After Martinez's first effort and a Luca Marrone own goal turned the match around following Niccolo Zanellato's Crotone opener, Vidal charged towards Arkadiusz Reca and stepped on his foot in the area to concede a penalty, which Vladimir Golemic converted.

Inter coach Conte was worried at that stage the setback might affect his side, looking to win an eighth successive league match for the first time since 2008.

But Vidal was replaced at the interval and an assured second-half display saw Martinez score twice more either side of an excellent Romelu Lukaku effort, before Achraf Hakimi completed the scoring.

Conte told Sky Sport Italia: "We did well to turn it around, then the naivety on the penalty could have created anxiety and nervousness.

"But we did well to get back on track and bring home another win.

"We had good answers today, also because we had started in the right way. Then there was this corner where they surprised us [for Zanellato's goal]."

The penalty was the only foul Vidal committed before his premature withdrawal, but he won just two of his five duels and Conte was not impressed.

"Arturo has important margins for improvement," Conte said. "He definitely needs to work. Keep your head down and keep working.

"Nobody is guaranteed a place here and he has to prove he deserves to play. He must do much better than what he is doing.

"From what we've seen so far, there are too many ups and downs, and we can't afford them. He knows this, he knows he has to train harder.

"Maybe when you play in big teams, sometimes this aspect takes a back seat. Here instead you have to raise the level, he knows that. We'll give him time."

Far more impressive was Lukaku, who created the first Inter goal for Martinez, had a hand in the next two and then scored the fourth before he hobbled off with an injury.

Having seen his outstanding number nine net his 35th goal in his 50th Serie A game, Conte will hope he does not have to face a spell without the striker.

Inter are in action again as soon as Wednesday, facing Sampdoria, and the coach was waiting to hear more on Lukaku's problem.

"He told me he had a small quadriceps strain," Conte said. "We'll see tomorrow if he's at risk for the Sampdoria game.

"We took him off straight away. I don't think it's anything serious."

Lautaro Martinez hit a perfect hat-trick and Romelu Lukaku sparkled as Inter defeated Crotone 6-2 at San Siro to turn up the heat on Milan at the start of 2021.

Inter moved top of Serie A at least until Milan's meeting with Benevento later on Sunday as they recovered from a testing first half to ease past their struggling visitors.

It was all square at the break after Martinez cancelled out Niccolo Zanellato's opener and was in close attendance for a Luca Marrone own goal prior to Vladimir Golemic's equalising penalty.

But Martinez completed his treble following the interval, while Lukaku, involved in the first four Nerazzurri goals, was also on target and Achraf Hakimi swept in the sixth in a fifth straight home win.

Only an apparent injury to the outstanding Lukaku put a slight dampener on a day that had started in laboured fashion.

Crotone struck first as a smart set-piece routine created an angle for Junior Messias to loft in a left-footed cross and find Zanellato all alone six yards out, able to head in via the post.

But Inter were level when Lukaku's excellent reverse pass set Martinez clear to fire right-footed beyond Alex Cordaz, and more fine work from the former Manchester United forward turned the game on its head.

Lukaku seized on Arturo Vidal's tackle in the midfield and fed Nicolo Barella, who was taken wide by a heavy touch but managed to cut the ball back for Marrone to stab into his own net in front of Martinez.

Vidal's next contribution was rather more rugged, however, as he stepped on Arkadiusz Reca's foot in the area to concede a spot-kick - awarded following a VAR review - which Golemic dispatched.

Martinez restored Inter's lead 12 minutes after half-time, keeping his cool on his left foot as Marcelo Brozovic prodded the ball on following a backheel from Lukaku, who got the goal he deserved soon enough, too.

The game's standout performer span away from Sebastiano Luperto and sold Cordaz a dummy to leave a simple finish, although he then indicated an issue with 15 minutes remaining and was quickly substituted.

Martinez remained on the pitch to nod in the rebound when Cordaz saved from Ivan Perisic, Lukaku's replacement, and Hakimi had the final say.
 

What does it mean? Your move, Rossoneri

Milan are the only remaining unbeaten team in Europe's 'top five' leagues but will have to maintain their pace to keep clear of Inter on this evidence.

The Nerazzurri have won five in a row at home in Serie A for the first time since 2018 and look a match for any opponent with Martinez and Lukaku in top form.

Landmark Lukaku looks the part

This was Lukaku's 50th Serie A appearance and his tally of 35 goals in that time has only been bettered by five players in the three-point era.

It was the front man's work as Inter's battering ram that was most impressive here, however, finishing with just a single assist from his only key pass but winning both his duels and holding the ball up brilliantly to create the space for Martinez to have seven attempts.

Marrone endures torrid time

Marrone's own goal under pressure from Martinez epitomised a dreadful outing for the former Juventus defender.

He might have found his own net again early in the second half and was a liability throughout despite weighing in with four clearances, three interceptions and a tackle.

Key Opta Facts

- Inter have won eight Serie A games in a row for the first time since December 2008.
- Inter have scored at least 40 goals in the first 15 Serie A games played for the first time since 1950-51 (45 in that case).
- Crotone have conceded at least six goals in a Serie A match for the first time in their history.
- Martinez's treble is the first perfect hat-trick from an Inter player since Mauro Icardi in March 2017 (vs Atalanta).

What's next?

There is no easing back into league action in 2021 as Inter are playing again as soon as Wednesday, visiting Sampdoria. Crotone host Roma the same day.

Lautaro Martinez hit a perfect hat-trick and Romelu Lukaku sparkled as Inter defeated Crotone 6-2 at San Siro to turn up the heat on Milan at the start of 2021.

Inter moved top of Serie A at least until Milan's meeting with Benevento later on Sunday as they recovered from a testing first half to ease past their struggling visitors.

It was all square at the break after Martinez cancelled out Niccolo Zanellato's opener and was in close attendance for a Luca Marrone own goal prior to Vladimir Golemic's equalising penalty.

But Martinez completed his treble following the interval, while Lukaku, involved in the first four Nerazzurri goals, was also on target and Achraf Hakimi swept in the sixth in a fifth straight win.

Only an apparent injury to the outstanding Lukaku put a slight dampener on a day that had started in laboured fashion.

 

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