Strakosha reportedly set for new Lazio deal

Goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha may have earned himself a new long-term contract at Lazio after producing a string of impressive performances.

Albania international Strakosha joined Lazio's youth ranks back in 2012 and he has been the club’s number one from the 2017/18 campaign onwards, making 91 Serie A appearances since the start of that season.

The 24-year-old has been particularly impressive this term, keeping eight clean sheets to sit joint-top in the division's charts alongside Hellas Verona's Marco Silvestri and AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Interest in the keeper is said to be high ahead of the summer transfer window with several top European clubs rumoured to be readying offers, and the Italian outfit are eager to fend off any potential suitors.

The Biancocelesti are reportedly looking to enter negotiations with Strakosha and his representatives over extending his current stay at the Stadio Olimpico, which runs until the summer of 2022.

With Lazio in contention for Serie A glory this season and on course to qualify for the Champions League next term, persuading the shot-stopper to pen fresh terms doesn't look like it will take too much.

Strakosha is expected to make his 24th league appearance of the campaign on Sunday when Lazio, who are on an 18-game unbeaten run in Serie A, play host to table-toppers Inter Milan in a crucial clash.

A win for the home side would see them jump into first place if defending champion Juventus, who are playing at home to Brescia earlier, fail to pick up all three points.

Injury-plagued Pastore heading for Roma exit

Roma are reportedly looking to terminate midfielder Javier Pastore's contract at the end of the season due to his persistent injury problems.

Pastore joined Roma in the summer of 2018 on a five-year deal after Paris Saint-Germain reportedly accepted a bid of €24.7million.

The Argentinian had fallen down the pecking order at PSG and was hoping to reignite his career back in Serie A with Roma.

However, injuries have majorly restricted his game-time at the Stadio Olimpico and he turned out just 14 times in the league in 2018-19.

Those issues have persisted in 2019-20, starting just four times, and reports suggest he may not feature again for the Giallorossi.

He returned from a two-month absence to make a cameo appearance in Roma's 1-1 draw with Lazio on January 26 although it's understood that outing has seen his hip problem flare up once again.

Reports claim he will go for further tests next week to ascertain how long he may be sidelined although the early prognosis is it could be another two-month lay-off.

The report states Roma have lost patience with the former Palermo forward and are looking to terminate his deal at the end of the campaign.

It's an understandable call considering Pastore is a huge drain on Roma's finances after being handed a €13million salary when he made the switch from PSG.

Barca could swap Vidal and Rakitic for Martinez

Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic could be joining Inter Milan as Barcelona try to sort out a deal to bring Lautaro Martinez to Camp Nou.

Barcelona are seeking a long-term successor to Luis Suarez and Martinez, who has been in fine form for Inter, has been on their radar for a while.

They are currently attempting to bring an attacker in on an emergency basis due to Ousmane Dembele's injury, but they are restricted to adding from another Spanish club due to La Liga protocols.

Reports suggest Barcelona will throw everything at Inter in the summer to try to snap up one of the brightest talents in European football.

Martinez has struck 11 times in 20 Serie A appearances for Inter this season and it's understood that compatriot Lionel Messi has urged Barcelona to make their move.

The Nerazzurri paid £18.8million for Martinez in the summer of 2018 and they shrewdly added a £92million release clause into his contract.

After missing out on a reunion with Neymar last summer, the Blaugrana are desperate to land a major target.

Reports in Italy claim Barcelona will offer Vidal and Rakitic, who have less than 18 months left on their contracts at the Nou Camp, in an attempt to sweeten the deal with the Italian giants.

Manchester United and Real Madrid have also been heavily linked with the Argentina international and Inter could use that interest to their advantage.

Milan striker Andre Silva relishing Bundesliga adventure

Milan striker Andre Silva has refused to rule out the possibility of staying in the Bundesliga when his loan stint at Eintracht Frankfurt comes to an end in the summer of 2021.

The 24-year-old is currently on a two-year loan at Frankfurt, having left Milan in 2019 after a disappointing run of form.

Silva earned his big-money move from Milan after scoring 17 goals in 41 matches for Porto between 2015 and 2017.

Milan fans hoped he was the answer to their forward woes, but Silva only scored two league goals in 25 games.

He was eventually loaned to Sevilla where he netted nine in 27, and he has already got four in 12 matches for the German giants.

Silva has had to overcome injuries this season but the Portugal international claims he is starting to find his best form, and he has refused to rule out a permanent stay in Germany.

He told the official Bundesliga website: "I think I'm going in the right direction again now, I'm feeling good, I'm working near to my best. Every day that passes feels better than the other days. So, I'm feeling very good.

"So, I think these adventures like in the Bundesliga and the other leagues that I play, it makes me a better player and a better human.

"I have a dream, of course. I'll try to be the best striker of all time, but it's too soon to speak about this. It's too soon to speak about that. I will try my best and let's see what happens."

Inter lose influential midfielder to injury

Inter Milan have confirmed midfielder Stefano Sensi faces a sustained period on the sidelines with a fractured foot.

Sensi picked up the injury during Inter’s 1-0 home defeat to Napoli in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final tie on Wednesday.

The extent of the damage suffered by the 25-year-old was initially unclear but following medical tests Inter have now confirmed he has suffered a hairline fracture to his left foot, although it is not yet known how long he will be sidelined for.

“Stefano Sensi underwent medical tests on his left foot at the Humanitas Research Hospital in Rozzano today after suffering an impact injury in the game against Napoli,” a club statement read.

“Results showed a hairline fracture to the navicular bone of his left foot, with the player’s condition to be reassessed next week.”

Sensi’s enforced absence will certainly come as a blow to Inter, as he has featured 17 times across all competitions for the Nerazzurri so far this season, playing a major role in their march to the top of the Serie A standings.

The former Cesena youngster only joined Antonio Conte’s side on loan from Sassuolo during the summer, although Inter do hold an option to make that deal permanent for a reported €25million.

The midfielder has also won four caps for Italy and he will be hoping to return in plenty of time to stake his claim for a place in Roberto Mancini’s squad for Euro 2020.

Raiola: Italy is like home for Pogba

The agent of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba says his client is open to the idea of making a return to Serie A giants Juventus.

Pogba left United in controversial circumstances in the summer of 2012, signing for Juventus on a free after rejecting a new deal at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson accused him of disrespecting the club that had helped him to develop as a youth player but the midfielder felt his development was being stalled by a lack of regular football.

His switch to Serie A with Juventus proved to be a fruitful one as he was immediately handed first-team football.

The Frenchman made 27 league appearances during his debut campaign as the Italian giants won the Scudetto.

Juventus won four titles in a row with Pogba orchestrating things in the midfield, while they also claimed the Coppa Italia on two occasions.

He left Turin in favour of a return to United in the summer of 2016, with the Red Devils paying a then-record fee of £89.3million.

But his time back in Manchester has not gone smoothly and he has barely played any football this season.

Injuries have restricted him to just seven Premier League appearances and reports suggest he is keen to leave for a second time.

His agent, Mino Raiola, has been very critical of the club over the past few months and the relationship does not look like it can be salvaged.

Raiola's latest comments have added further fuel to the fire after suggesting an exit could be on the cards this summer.

"Italy is like home for Paul," Raiola told reporters. "He would not mind going back to Juve but we will see what will happen after the Euros.

"Paul wants to play at the best level but he can't escape by Manchester United if they are in a difficult situation."

Ospina: Napoli still have quality

David Ospina remains optimistic that Napoli can end the season positively after slipping into the bottom half of the standings.

Going into the 2019-20 season, the Partenopei looked the most likely side to end Juventus' domination of Serie A and win the title.

However, turmoil on and off the pitch has contributed to a diabolical season which has seen them fall way short of challenging.

Sunday's 3-2 home loss against relegation-threatened Lecce leaves Napoli 11th in the table after 23 games.

Carlo Ancelotti departed in December and was replaced by former AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso.

Since taking over, the ex-Italy international has overseen three wins and five losses in hid eight Serie A games.

The Coppa Italia might prove to be the light at the end of the tunnel however, as Fabian Ruiz's second-half goal was enough to defeat Inter Milan 1-0 at the San Siro in the first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday.

Speaking after the game, former Arsenal keeper Ospina says there is still a lot to play for going into the final stages of the season.

"It's been a difficult season so far but there are still points up for grabs and plenty of games to play," he said. "We have a lot of quality."

As well as the Coppa Italia, Napoli could look to the Champions League as a beacon of hope.

They finished second behind Liverpool in the group stage and are one of just two sides to defeat them across all competitions this season after defeating them 2-0 at the Stadio San Paolo in September.

Barcelona are their opponents in the round of 16 with the first leg being at home on February 25.

Italian football federation willing to trial VAR challenge system

The Italian Football Federation has notified FIFA of its "willingness to experiment" with a VAR challenge process.

Following requests from a number of Serie A clubs, the country's governing body released a statement in which it said it was open to trialling a system whereby teams could request an on-field review during matches.

"Italy was one of the first countries in the world to experiment with technology in football," read the FIGC statement.

"The adoption of VAR by IFAB (the International Football Association Board) was preceded by an offline test period in the Italian top tier and generated exceptional results, contributing significantly to the implementation of the definitive protocol.

"Animated by the same desire to innovate and with the same spirit of service of the time, the FIGC has interpreted the requests received in recent weeks by numerous Serie A clubs and has informally anticipated FIFA its willingness to experiment with the use of the challenge (the call for an on-field review by the teams), in the time and manner that IFAB eventually establishes.

"The FIGC is convinced that, by continuing the path already undertaken, football can be brought into a dimension ever closer to the millions of fans, without affecting the referee's authority, but rather by providing him with concrete tools."

FIGC president Gabriele Gravina has also urged referees to "intensify" the use of the on-field review "to avoid fuelling controversies that affect the image of our championship, which is preparing to enter the crucial phase of the season".

Inter Milan way off the best – Conte

Antonio Conte has claimed Napoli have the next best squad in Serie A behind Juventus after watching them beat his Inter Milan side on Wednesday night.

Inter may be battling it out with Juve and Lazio for the Serie A title this season but Conte believes they are still some way off becoming one of the best sides in Europe.

The Nerazzurri coach was speaking to the media after Napoli wrapped up a 1-0 win at the San Siro in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg, and he was far from happy.

Conte admits that the stunning fightback against AC Milan at the weekend may have taken something out of his players, but he did freshen the side up with five changes and was not looking for excuses.

The Italian is now hoping they can learn from the defeat although it is surprising to hear the former Chelsea boss suggest Napoli’s squad is stronger than his own.

It could be a nudge to the powers-that-be that more investment is needed although they have not been shy in getting the cheque book out since his arrival.

“I’d say that, after Juventus, Napoli have the most impressive squad in Serie A,” Conte said. “Gennaro Gattuso was smart to sit back, wait and go on the counter. We had the chances and it would’ve been a fair result if we had played out a draw.

“When you’re up against defensive teams like this, you have to move the ball around faster and create spaces.

“We are at the start of this journey, so if some think we are at the same level as a side that was at the top for many years, then I say we’re a long way off and have to use these defeats to improve.”

Sarri convinced Juventus are still on track

Maurizio Sarri remains bullish about his position as Juventus manager despite the increased pressure following a string of poor results.

The 61-year-old has seen his side lose two of their last three matches in Serie A, leaving them second in the table.

Juventus are level with Inter Milan on points, but Antonio Conte's side have the superior goal difference after the first 23 matches.

Sarri's side lost to his former club Napoli before responding against Fiorentina, but they were brought back down to earth when they surprisingly lost to Hellas Verona on Saturday.

Meanwhile, title rivals Inter are unbeaten in 10 matches, heaping more pressure on Sarri.

Speculation suggests Pep Guardiola or Massimiliano Allegri could soon replace the ex-Chelsea boss at the Allianz Stadium, but Sarri says he is ready for the fight.

He told reporters ahead of the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg against AC Milan on Thursday night: "If I didn't want to face examinations I would've taken a job at the post office. This is the job.

"We are on target to reach the objectives we set out at the start of the season. Of course on matches were things go wrong there are reflections to be made."

Recent reports suggested Sarri met with club president Andrea Agnelli for ultimatum talks after the defeat to Verona. The former Chelsea boss has since countered those claims by insisting they were always due to meet for dinner.

Sarri's men return to league duties on Sunday against Brescia before they face a massive week towards the end of the month.

They face Lyon in the first leg of their last 16 tie in the Champions League on February 26, before welcoming Inter to Turin on March 1.

Szczesny pens new long-term Juventus deal

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has committed his future to Juventus by signing a new four-year contract with the Old Lady.

The 29-year-old has proven to be a more than adequate replacement for club legend Gianluigi Buffon and is now closing in on 100 appearances for the Bianconeri.

Juve are not having it all their own way in the race for the Scudetto this season as both Inter Milan and Lazio push them hard, and last week’s defeat against Hellas Verona set alarm bells ringing.

However none of the blame can be put in the hands of the former Arsenal shot-stopper, who has made the number position his own at the Allianz Stadium.

Buffon is still around after returning from a spell at Paris Saint-Germain to offer cover as does Carlo Pinsoglio, but Szczesny is clearly first choice, and for good reason.

The Poland international’s record since joining Juve is impressive to say the least and he has gone on to make 84 appearances, conceding just 65 goals and keeping 40 clean sheets.

Some of that is of course down to the rock solid Bianconeri rearguard in front of him, but he has been an outstanding last line of defence during his time with the club.

Juve officials have been quick to recognise this and have tied him down to the new deal that will keep him in Turin until at least the summer of 2024.

The way things are going he could outlast current coach Maurizio Sarri, who is feeling the wrath of those supporters who are unhappy with the way the season is panning out.

Juventus will have to break bank to bring Orsolini back

Juventus have been told they will have to splash out at least £59million to have a chance of re-signing Riccardo Orsolini from Bologna.

Orsolini was once on the books of the Bianconeri but failed to make a first-team appearance and initially joined Bologna on loan in January 2018.

After a successful spell, the deal was made permanent and the 23-year-old had gone on to reignite his career after some impressive performances.

This season he has chipped in with seven goals and provided a further four assists in 23 Serie A games to kick off the suggestion the Old Lady may want to take him back.

Bologna’s sporting director Walter Sabatini has suggested that is not beyond the realms of possibility although Juve would have to spend big as no buy-back clause was included in the deal when he left Turin.

“In the negotiation process, we talked to Juventus about a possible buy-back option but it was never written down, so it remained only verbal,” Sabatini told ETV.

“At the moment, it is unthinkable that he could be sold for the figures that have been mentioned in the media. We would discuss it with Juventus to ensure that everyone was happy with the situation.

“We are a strong club and, if the player were to leave, we would require compensation. In any case, we’re not thinking about his departure at the moment and he is not on the market.”

Sabatini then went on to suggest it would take a figure of at least 70million euros to get the deal done.

Lukaku hails Inter's mental strength after comeback win

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku lauded his team-mates after they showed great willpower to come from behind and beat bitter rivals AC Milan on Sunday.

After Juventus slipped up at the weekend, suffering a shock defeat against Verona, the Nerazzurri knew that victory against their city rivals would take them top of Serie A.

However they nearly threw away the opportunity following a poor first 45 minutes that saw Milan race into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic,

Inter showed their never-say-die attitude after the break, and following some stern words from Antonio Conte, came out firing on all cylinders.

Goals from Marcelo Brozovic, Matias Vecino, Stefan de Vrij and Lukaku completed the fightback to take Conte's men back top as the race for the Scudetto hots up.

Lukaku has now scored 17 goals this season and says both his and Inter’s winning mentality is there for all to see.

"We came out well after the interval. We completed the comeback and we're delighted with the win," he said. "I think that everyone has seen this team's mentality, we never give up and we're always looking to win.

"I'm here to win and my only aim is to help the team get results. I want to thank all of the fans, my team-mates, Mister [Antonio] Conte and all of his backroom staff for the support that they're giving me."

Inter next game in Serie A will provide another huge test when they travel to Lazio, who sit in third, just two points behind.

Conte reluctant to talk up Inter's title chances after derby win

Antonio Conte insists it is still too soon to tip his Inter Milan side as Serie A title contenders despite going top of the table on Sunday.

Marcelo Brozovic, Matias Vecino, Stefan De Vrij and Romelu Lukaku all found the net as Inter overturned a 2-0 half-time deficit to stun rivals AC Milan 4-2 at the San Siro.

Inter jumped to the summit ahead of Juventus on goal difference after the eight-time reigning Serie A champions slipped up 2-1 at Verona on Saturday.

However, Inter boss Conte will not get ahead of himself.

"Scudetto? I say it is still too early to talk about things we can dream of today," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"It's inevitable that this period of 10 games will be quite intense.

"If after this period we will still be there, we will be able to say more about our potential and possibilities, perhaps different from the beginning.

"Already on Wednesday there is the Coppa Italia (semi-final) against Napoli, then Lazio, who have always been strong. It takes patience and it takes time."

Veteran hitman Zlatan Ibrahimovic teed up Ante Rebic then scored himself to wrestle full control for Milan at the break. But Inter turned the tide after the interval, and in some style.

"The credit goes to the kids because, beyond the result, being able to resist the blows in times of difficulty means wanting to grow and do something good," said Conte.

"There was no need to talk so much during the interval. When we are in difficulty we must be very clear.

"I first had responsibility for the fact that we were behind and how we were playing in the first half.

"So we united to get out of difficult situations. We will have to keep this in mind for the future."

Milan boss Stefano Pioli admitted the defeat leaves a "bitter" taste in the mouth, especially given his side's total control at half-time.

"I'm angry with the players because we had defensive tasks," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"They also had a bit of luck, we hit two posts.

"I have to be bitter. I have to make these players understand that if we want to stay at a certain level, attention and lucidity are too important."

Sarri slams Juventus for 'superficial' attitude

Maurizio Sarri cut a frustrated figure after Juventus lost at Verona on Saturday and criticised his players for having a 'superficial attitude'.

Juventus missed the chance to open up a six-point gap at the top of the Serie A standings after slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi and that was despite taking a second-half lead through Cristiano Ronaldo, who set a new club record by netting in his 10th consecutive league game.

Goals in the final 15 minutes from Fabio Borini and Giampaolo Pazzini helped turn the game in Verona's favour and the defeat is setting a worrying trend for Juve, who have now lost three of their last five away games in the league.

Sarri admits that the Old Lady's poor away form is becoming a concern and he has questioned the attitude of his players.

"Evidently we have different performances and results when comparing home form to away. It was a difficult game, we knew it would be and that Verona would make us suffer early on," Sarri told DAZN.

"We held out well, hit the woodwork twice, took the lead, but cannot drop points with such soft errors. The first goal was inexplicable, if we want Juventus to win games, we cannot keep making errors caused by a superficial attitude."

Inter Milan can now draw level on points with Juventus at the top of the standings if they secure a derby victory over AC Milan on Sunday night.

Lazio can also move to within a point of the Old Lady in what is developing into one of the tightest Serie A title races in years.

Juve will be back in action on Thursday when they travel to the San Siro to take on Milan in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final, with their next league match coming in Turin against struggling Brescia next Sunday.

Gattuso unhappy with 'fragile' Napoli display

Gennaro Gattuso criticised his Napoli side for being too fragile against Lecce on Sunday and lacking killer instinct in front of goal.

The Partenopei's hopes of climbing towards the European spots were dealt a big blow as they went down 3-2 at home to struggling Lecce.

The visitors held a 1-0 lead at the break thanks to Gianluca Lapadula's effort.

Arkadiusz Milik levelled matters soon after the restart but Lapadula grabbed a second and Lecce moved 3-1 ahead through Marco Mancosu with eight minutes to play.

Jose Callejon reduced the deficit late on but his strike proved to be just a consolation for Napoli as their three-match winning streak came to an end.

Gattuso, who replaced the sacked Carlo Ancelotti in December, was disappointed with his side's display and says they have to improve at both ends of the pitch if they are to challenge at the top of Serie A.

He told Sky Sports: "You can miss scoring chances, but the team is too fragile. Even if you don't score, you must defend the 0-0 - we are too passive and not ruthless enough."

He added: "We'll review the match together, we'll work on being compact, and by sniffing out danger. In the first minutes we had scoring chances, but once we faced pressure, we lost our confidence. This is our biggest problem, when we are attacked, we get scared."

Napoli return to action on Wednesday as they head to Inter Milan for the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final tie before a Serie A trip to Cagliari next Sunday.

Juventus forward Dybala seeking payrise

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala is reportedly open to the idea of penning a new contract, but only if his pay packet matches some of the club's biggest earners.

Argentina international Dybala's future in Turin looked to be in doubt at the start of the season after finding himself down the pecking order, but he has managed to force his way back into the first-team fold and he has made 17 starts in Serie A and the Champions League combined.

The 26-year-old has scored 11 goals across all competitions this term and his impressive performances attracted the interest of several top European sides during the January transfer window, with Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid all linked.

Dybala did admit he was uncertain about his long-term future with Italian champions Juventus last month amid interest in his services and there are still reports claiming he will leave the Old Lady for the Premier League in the summer.

There has been talk about extending the forward's contract beyond the 2021/22 campaign, but it is thought the Argentine will demand £8.5million per year to put pen-to-paper on a new deal, an amount Juventus may not be willing to pay.

The Italian giants, who are three points clear in Serie A as they look for a ninth straight title, could decide to cash in on Dybala to strengthen their position with FFP.

It is claimed an offer around £65-70m will be required to land the forward during the summer transfer window, but that amount is not expected to stop the likes of Spurs and the Red Devils lodging an offer and there could be a battle between the two.

Fonseca worried as Roma confidence taks another knock

Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca admits he is "concerned" that his players are low on confidence after a disappointing 3-2 loss at home to Bologna on Friday.

The Giallorossi were looking good for a top-four finish having won 10 and drawn five of their first 17 games this season, but they have hit the buffers in recent times.

The latest reverse, which saw Musa Barrow score twice in addition to Riccardo Orsolini's opener for the visitors, was Roma's fourth loss in six games, with only one victory in that sequence.

They sit in fifth place in Serie A but face a real battle with Atalanta for a place in next season's elite club competition.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored for the hosts on 72 minutes after Bologna's Stefano Denswil had put through his own net in the first half but it was not enough as I Rossoblu moved up to sixth in the standings.

The Roma loss followed on from a 4-2 defeat at Sassuolo on February 1 and Fonseca confessed that he is more troubled by what is going in between the ears of his charges than their football on the pitch.

"Tactically I'm not worried, I'm more concerned about the degree of confidence among the players," he told reporters. "We weren't very relaxed when we went out on the pitch. The team has played great matches this season, so why can't we do it any more?"

Defender Chris Smalling was culpable for Bologna's first goal in the week it emerged the Eternal City outfit are keen to make his loan move from Manchester United permanent next summer.

Ibrahimovic set to return for AC Milan in derby showdown

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to be available for AC Milan in Sunday's Serie A derby against Inter.

The 38-year-old Swedish striker, who rejoined the club during the January transfer window, missed last Sunday's 1-1 draw against Verona.

But Milan boss Stefano Pioli is hopeful Ibrahimovic, who has scored two goals in five appearances since arriving back in Italy last month, will be fit for the San Siro showdown.

"Zlatan has been completing an individual programme in order to be ready to rejoin the team in training today, and if he passes this final step then he'll be available for tomorrow evening," said Pioli.

"We've done everything we could to help him recover from the flu and his calf problem. He just needs one more full training session with the team."

Milan have not lost since Ibrahimovic, who spent three seasons at Inter earlier in his career, re-signed for the Rossoneri following a two-year spell in America with LA Galaxy.

And Pioli wants his players to match the veteran striker's mentality in Sunday's derby.

Pioli, whose side are ninth in Serie A, seven places and 19 points adrift of their city rivals, added: "Inter did much better than us up until December, but we're doing well now and we're climbing back up the table.

"We prepare for every game with the aim of winning, but there are some games like this which are simply worth more. And in order to win you need to play better than your opponents.

"We'll all need to have Ibra's mentality tomorrow. We'll need to be fired up and excited at the prospect of the game.

"Our team have shown character and courage, we've had more bad times than good and we've reacted in the right way."

Under former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, Inter have been in fine fettle this term and will be keen to maintain the pressure on table-toppers Juventus.

Inter, who have lost just once in the league this season - a 2-1 defeat against Juve - are three points off the Serie A summit.

"AC Milan are much better than where they're currently at in the table," said Conte.

"They've got a great team and they've added a champion like Ibrahimovic to it. He's brought experience, awareness and confidence.

"I think that it's right that all of the best players are available for the big games, even in terms of entertainment, and I always hope to face the best players in big games like this."

Pirlo backs Conte to lead Inter to glory

Former Italy international Andrea Pirlo has backed Antonio Conte to steer Inter Milan to glory, saying "They'll fight for the Scudetto to the end."

Inter are currently preparing for a showdown with arch-rivals AC Milan at the San Siro on Sunday, with Conte's side currently in second place in the Serie A table and three points behind frontrunners Juventus.

After a torrid start to the season, Milan are a work in progress and have climbed up to eighth place in the standings ahead of the weekend's derby.

Having played under Conte during his time at Juventus, Pirlo has hailed the 50-year-old's desire to win and feels his fellow Italian will be insufferable if his side were not to claim the bragging rights in Milan on Sunday.

"They'll fight for the Scudetto to the end," Pirlo told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Conte forces you to give your best at all times, more than you even thought you had. He is obsessed with victory, so when he loses, he becomes a demon. You daren't speak to him.

"Conte is the best coach I ever worked with, every day he showed us 40-50 minute video sessions. It's because of him that I started considering the idea of becoming a coach myself."

Milan are unbeaten in seven games heading into the derby, while Inter have suffered one defeat in their last 15 games in all competitions.