Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi is happy with the Nerazzurri's first half to the season but says you do not win trophies for being top at Christmas.

The Nerazzurri face Torino on Wednesday knowing that win, lose or draw they will sit top of the Serie A at Christmas, currently holding a four-point lead from Napoli and Milan who are both on 39 points.

Inzaghi took over at Inter following a challenging off-season for the champions with Antonio Conte exiting along with Romelu Lukaku but has steadied after a slow start yet he is motivated for more.

“It’s normal to be pleased at the moment," Inzaghi told Inter TV. "We’re thrilled to be top of the table heading into the winter break, but we know we don’t get any trophies for that.

"It’s a great feeling, but it should also spur us on to achieve more.

“We’re in good form. The players are all committed. We’re lucky enough to be working well together despite having so many fixtures to play.

"We’re doing well, but we know there’s still a long way to go. We’ve seen that over the first 18 games of the season the leaders have changed quickly."

Inter boasts an impressive record after 18 games, with 13 wins and only one defeat, having scored a league-high 48 goals despite Lukaku's off-season departure.

The Nerazzurri have won six in a row in the league and are undefeated in 10 games, dating back to October's 3-1 loss to Lazio.

Inzaghi's side have also qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League where they will face Liverpool.

"We’re on track in terms of what was asked of us, which was to get back into the last 16 in the Champions League and to be in the top four in the league, so we’re pleased," Inzaghi added.

"The players are working very hard and there’s motivation to keep going down this path, with all the many challenges that lie in wait.”

Matthijs de Ligt's agent Mina Raiola is ready to find the defender a new club.

The outspoken representative suggested he could join Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain.

He also indicated the Premier League was of interest to the Juventus centre-back.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS TO LAND DE LIGT

Chelsea are leading the race to sign Juventus defender De Ligt, claims The Sun.

Raiola has indicated the 22-year-old is ready to leave Juve, who are off the Serie A title pace this term.

Chelsea are expected to lose a host of defenders and eager to make a move for De Ligt.

 

ROUND-UP

- Cashed-up Newcastle United have an eye on Inter forward Edin Dzeko as well as a loan deal for Manchester United's Anthony Martial, reports The Sun.

Manchester United have been in touch with River Plate about 21-year-old Argentinean forward Julian Alvarez, claims Ole.

United are also set to win the race to sign Olympique Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara according to FourFourTwo.

- Gerard Romero claims that Tottenham will make another move for Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet after missing out on him last transfer window.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Jonathan Ikone's move from Lille to Fiorentina is agreed with only the paperwork left to be signed on a five-year deal with a €15m fee.

Simone Inzaghi admits Liverpool were one of the teams that Inter were aiming to avoid in the Champions League knockout stages.

The Nerazzurri have been drawn to play the six-time European champions in the last 16 of the competition; hosting the Reds at San Siro on February 16 before the return leg at Anfield three weeks later.

Group B winners Liverpool were one of three sides to progress from the first phase with a 100 per cent record intact, along with Bayern Munich and Ajax.

Meanwhile, Inter finished as Group D runners-up behind Real Madrid, who inflicted home and away defeats on the reigning Serie A champions.

"Liverpool were among the teams to avoid, along with Manchester City and Bayern Munich," Inzaghi said on Sky Sport Italia.

"But now we are in the last 16, and we will play it knowing that we meet a team that have won all six in the group and that won the Champions League two years ago."

The two sides last met at this stage of the 2007-08 competitions, with the Reds prevailing 3-0 aggregate winners.

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi wants one more push from his side in 2021 before a short Christmas break and a seriously daunting run of matches.

The Serie A leaders breezed past Salernitana on Friday, Ivan Perisic, Denzel Dumfries, Alexis Sanchez, Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Gagliardini scoring in a 5-0 victory.

The result put Inter four points clear at the top with one match left before the mid-season break, while they also became just the fourth side in Serie A history to score 100 or more goals in a calendar year.

The champions are on a run of six consecutive victories, the past five of which have all come without the Nerazzurri conceding a goal, but an ominous run of fixtures lies in wait in early 2022.

After Torino on Wednesday and Bologna on January 6, Inter host Lazio in the league before facing Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana, after which they head to Atalanta.

A home game with Venezia on January 22 is followed by the Milan derby at San Siro and a clash with title-chasing Napoli on February 12 – a game that takes place only four days before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Liverpool.

Inzaghi hopes for another strong showing against Torino before his players can take time to rest and prepare for the matches to come.

"These games look straightforward on paper, but that's not the case," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The boys had the right attitude from the start, I made changes and you couldn't even tell because everyone steps up the same way.

"We have our ninth game in 25 days coming up. It's the last push before the break for Christmas, and we need to grit our teeth.

"I thought we always played good football, but with our commitments in the Champions League, we dropped points along the way.

"We did well to keep our heads up, got back to the top of the table, and now we want to stay there. These boys never stopped, especially those who went on international duty and made long journeys. We need that break so everyone can recharge their batteries."

Alexis Sanchez was on the scoresheet as Serie A leaders Inter brushed aside Salernitana 5-0 at Stadio Arechi on Friday.

Linked with a possible January move to Barcelona in recent days, the Chile forward was handed just his third league start of the season and repaid coach Simone Inzaghi with his first top-flight goal since May.

Ivan Perisic and Denzel Dumfries had already put the Nerazzurri comfortably in control in the first half, the latter scoring his side's 100th league goal of 2021.

Substitutes Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Gagliardini added fourth and fifth goals for Inter, who now lead Serie A by four points with one game left this year.

Inter needed only 10 minutes to take the lead, Perisic given a free header six yards out from Hakan Calhanoglu's corner.

Edin Dzeko glanced a Dumfries cross wide before Salernitana came within inches of an equaliser against the run of play, Joel Obi denied a goal against his old club by Samir Handanovic after being played through by Franck Ribery.

Just three minutes later, Dzeko sent Dumfries racing through and the wing-back's strike crashed off the underside of the bar and, although it bounced away from goal, it had clearly crossed the line.

Dzeko should have nodded in a third before the break but managed to steer the ball wide after goalkeeper Vincenzo Fiorillo had flapped at thin air.

Yet Inter only needed six minutes of the second half to make it 3-0 after all. After a promising Salernitana attack broke down, Sanchez sparked a counter-attack before racing up the pitch and firing low past Fiorillo from Calhanoglu's pass.

Martinez, who came on for Sanchez, swept home from the middle of the box after the ball fell kindly to him, and Gagliardini drilled in a fifth with three minutes of normal time left.

Romelu Lukaku is Chelsea's back-up plan if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

Haaland is being circled by several top clubs including Chelsea, along with Manchester City and Real Madrid.

The Borussia Dortmund talent will demand a significant transfer fee which the Blues may be able to afford.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU FIRMS AS CHELSEA'S PLAN B

Chelsea have turned their attention to their former striker Romelu Lukaku as they look to bolster their forward options.

The Telegraph reports that Haaland still remains top priority but Inter forward Lukaku is being heavily considered.

The Manchester Evening News are also reporting City are interested in Lukaku as both clubs prepare to miss out on Haaland.

Inter have indicated that Lukaku, who was at Chelsea from 2011 to 2014 but spent spells on loan at West Brom and Everton, is not for sale.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca's front page discusses Real Madrid setting Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe as their transfer priorities amid a major reconstruction whilst reinforcing a Cristiano Ronaldo return is not part of their plans.

- ESPN claim Borussia Dortmund have set a €180m valuation on Haaland, as numerous clubs circle for the Norwegian forward's services.

- Manchester United are considering offering Jesse Lingard a new deal following his exceptional form on loan at West Ham United, according to The Sun.

- AS is reporting that Manchester United have also made an approach to sign Atletico Madrid's Marcos Llorente for £68.5m.

- Turkish outlet Ajansspor reports that Fenerbahce have contacted ex-Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri about potentially taking up their head coach role.

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