Cagliari were relegated from Serie A after only managing a draw against Venezia as Salernitana retained their top-flight status despite being thrashed by Udinese.

Salernitana looked in serious danger of going down when Davide Nicola took charge in February, sitting bottom of the table with three wins from 23 games.

Nicola inspired a resurgence, though, with his side picking up 15 points in a run of seven league games to head into the final matchday two points clear of Cagliari.

However, Udinese were rampant as Gerard Deulofeu, Ilija Nestorovski and Iyenoma Destiny Udogie put Nicola's side 3-0 down before half-time on Sunday.

Udinese captain Roberto Pereyra added a fourth after the interval as the Friulians achieved their best Serie A points haul (47) since the 2012-13 season (66).

That meant Cagliari would have stayed up with a win at already-relegated Venezia, but Alessandro Agostini's could only muster a draw as the Rossoblu were relegated to Serie B for the sixth time in their history.

Cagliari's failure handed Salernitana their first-ever Serie A survival, having failed to do so on their other two attempts in 1947-48 and 1998-99.

Salernitana also became the first team to stay up despite conceding at least 78 goals in a single top-flight campaign after Livorno (79 in 1929-30) and Lucchese (82 in 1947-48, 79 in 1949-50).

Meanwhile, Cagliari join Venezia and Genoa in Serie B and the trio will aim to bounce straight back up next season.

Simone Inzaghi said Inter still believe they can retain the Scudetto after Lautaro Martinez's brace helped the Nerazzurri beat Cagliari and take the Serie A title race to the wire.

After watching Milan beat Atalanta 2-0 at San Siro, the Nerazzurri had to win in Sardinia to avoid ceding their domestic crown to their rivals, but Martinez followed up Matteo Darmian's opener with a second-half double as Inter claimed a hard-fought 3-1 win to keep their hopes intact.

Inter have now won seven of their past eight league games, but must beat Sampdoria and hope Sassuolo defeat the Rossoneri on the final day to win their 20th top-flight title.

Inzaghi won one Serie A title during his playing career, scoring when Sven Goran Eriksson's Lazio claimed a dramatic title triumph on the final day of the 1999-00 season, beating Reggina 3-0 to overturn a two-point deficit to Juventus, who lost 1-0 to Perugia. 

The former striker says that success is proof that anything can happen on the final day, and praised his team for putting in a composed performance just days after beating Juventus to win the Coppa Italia.

"There is still one game missing, the team believes in it. We know that it has already happened, it has already happened to me," Inzaghi told his post-match press conference.

"We believe in it until the end, and we will prepare it in the best possible way. Today we had a very good game two days after celebrating a trophy. In front of us we had a Cagliari team that was playing for survival and nothing was taken for granted, but I have a great team. 

"I won a Scudetto against Lazio that I was two points behind [with one game left] and Juve lost to Perugia on the last day. In football you must never give up, we have always shown it."

Inter's win means they have taken 39 points from their 19 away games in Serie A this season, the same amount they earned when winning the title under Antonio Conte last term.

This represents the Nerazzurri's joint-third best away return in a single Serie A season (in the era of three points for a win), after they took 49 points in 2006-07 and 43 in 2019-20.

Speaking to DAZN in the immediate aftermath of the win, Inzaghi had also heaped praise on two-goal hero Martinez after his match-winning performance.

"I think he's got 25 goals this year. He has scored 13 goals in his last 13. The team put him in a position to score, he is a champion, he is very important for us and the team," he said.

"He was good because even in the period in which he was unable to score, he worked hard, and now you can see the results."

Martinez's tally of 25 goals in all competitions this season is at least eight better than any other Nerazzurri player (Edin Dzeko is second with 17), and the Argentine has become just the sixth Inter player to hit 20 goals in a Serie A season before turning 25 years of age, after Giuseppe Meazza, Sandro Mazzola, Antonio Angelillo, Ronaldo and Mauro Icardi. 

While the striker acknowledged Inter had dropped points in games they should have won this season, he too holds out hope of a dramatic final-day triumph next Sunday.

"We have lost points in matches in which we have done well, but in every competition we have played good football and done the work we wanted," the striker told DAZN.

"The points lost are behind us, now there is one last home game with our fans, and we have to finish the championship in the best way."

A Lautaro Martinez brace ensured Inter will take the Serie A title race to the final day of the season as the Nerazzurri secured a tense 3-1 win over Cagliari.

Having seen leaders Milan beat Atalanta 2-0 earlier on Sunday, the Nerazzurri knew only a win in Sardinia would keep their hopes of a second consecutive title alive.

Martinez scored twice to add to Matteo Darmian's opener as Inter went about doing just that, although they had to work for the victory after Charalampos Lykogiannis halved the arrears in the second half.

Simone Inzaghi's men have it all to do on the final day, however, needing to beat Sampdoria and hope Milan lose at Sassuolo to be crowned champions.

Ivan Perisic forced Alessio Cragno into an early save with a fierce strike before Samir Handanovic got down to his right to stop Lykogiannis' goal-bound effort during a lively start.

Inter were denied a 10th-minute opener when Milan Skriniar was adjudged to have bundled home a right-wing free-kick with his arm, but the Nerazzurri hit the front after 25 minutes when Darmian headed Perisic's fine cross into the top-left corner.

Martinez twice went close to doubling Inter's lead at the end of an entertaining first half, striking the post with a sublime left-footed volley before drawing a close-range stop from Cragno. 

The Argentine finally got his goal after 51 minutes, bringing down Nicolo Barella's long ball before firing home, only for Lykogiannis to halve the arrears two minutes later with a deflected long-range effort.

But Martinez was not done there, producing a brilliant lobbed finish from Roberto Gagliardini's pass to clinch his brace, putting Milan's celebrations on ice and deepening the hosts' relegation fears.

What does it mean? Inter take thrilling title race to the final day

Inzaghi's men ensured an absorbing Serie A title race will be decided on the final day of the season with their win, although they are relying on Sassuolo to complete a league double over Milan to give them a chance of glory.

Inter have now won seven of their last eight league games, losing the other, allowing them to keep pace with a Rossoneri side unbeaten in 15 Serie A matches (10 wins, five draws).

Outstanding Martinez passes 20-goal mark

Martinez's second-half brace proved decisive as the Argentina ace hit 21 league goals in what has been a superb individual campaign.

He is now just the sixth player in Inter's history to reach 20 goals in a Serie A season before turning 25, after Giuseppe Meazza, Sandro Mazzola, Antonio Angelillo, Ronaldo, and Mauro Icardi.

Cup hero contributes once more

Having scored an extra-time brace to fire Inter to a Coppa Italia final win over Juventus on Wednesday, Perisic was on top form again as the Nerazzurri kept their double hopes intact.

As well as scoring seven Serie A goals, the Croatian has registered seven league assists after teeing up Darmian's opener, with only Hakan Calhanoglu (11) and Barella (10) recording more for Inter this term.

Key Opta Facts:

- Inter have earned 39 Serie A points on the road this season, as many as in the previous term, which was their third-best performance in a single campaign (49 points in 2006-07 and 43 in 2019-20).
- Cagliari have ended a Serie A campaign with only three home wins for the second time in their history, after the 1999-2000 season.
- Martínez has scored the most goals in Serie A since the start of March (10).

What's next?

Inter host Sampdoria in their final game of the season next Sunday, requiring a win – and a Milan defeat at Sassuolo – to retain their title. Cagliari, meanwhile, need a win over relegated Venezia on the same day to have any chance of survival.

Three matchdays remain in Serie A, and yet there is plenty still to be decided at both ends of the table – not least which side will be crowned champions.

Milan occupy top spot in their quest for a first Scudetto since 2011, but fierce rivals Inter are just two points behind and arguably have an easier set of fixtures to conclude the campaign.

Napoli and Juventus are not officially out of the title race just yet, though they are seven and eight points off first place respectively, therefore requiring a remarkable set of results.

Both Napoli and Juventus are already assured of a top-four finish, but there are several other teams still battling it out for the three remaining European spots.

Venezia appear doomed at the opposite end of the table after losing to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday, with the latter's victory lifting them out of the bottom three – in all, six teams remain in trouble.

But just how will the remaining two and a half weeks of the season unfold? Using the Stats Perform League Prediction Model, we can try to forecast the final standings.

Created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, the model has analysed the division to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results.

Weighting is based on recency and the quality of opposition, with the rest of the matches then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Let's take a look...

 

MILAN TO SEE THE JOB THROUGH

Milan still have Hellas Verona (ninth), Atalanta (eighth) and Sassuolo (11th) to face, whereas Inter's final fixtures are against Empoli (14th), Cagliari (18th) and Sampdoria (15th).

However, it is worth noting that if they finish level on points, Milan would be crowned champions by virtue of a superior head-to-read record against their rivals this term.

With that in mind, while Inter are only two points behind, they essentially need to take three more points than Milan over the final three matchdays.

And our model suggests the Rossoneri have a 62 per cent chance of retaining top spot, compared to a 37.7 per cent chance of defending champions Inter overtaking them.

Just to highlight how unlikely it is either Napoli or Juventus will pip the current top two to the summit, they have a 0.2 and 0.1 per cent chance of winning the title respectively.

A ROME ONE-TWO FOR EUROPA LEAGUE?

The Champions League places may now officially be wrapped up, but five teams are still battling it out for the three remaining European berths.

The sides that finish in fifth and sixth, currently occupied by Roma and Lazio, will qualify for the Europa League group stage.

Roma, according to the model, have a 59.1 per cent chance of nailing down fifth place – though if they were to drop to seventh, the Europa Conference League finalists could get into the Europa League by winning UEFA's third-tier competition.

Lazio would take great enjoyment from finishing above their neighbours and have a 36.9 per cent chance of doing so.

The first priority for Maurizio Sarri will be locking down sixth, though, and there is a 46.7 per cent likelihood of achieving that with Fiorentina three points further back.

ATALANTA TO PIP FIORENTINA

While the top six are forecast to remain where they are, our model predicts seventh-placed Fiorentina will miss out to Atalanta in the Europa Conference League play-off position.

After losing three games in a row, La Viola now have a 31.2 per cent chance of staying seventh, compared to 47.6 for Atalanta, whom they are currently level with on 56 points.

Verona are four points further back and that appears to be too big a gap to bridge, with the Gialloblu seemingly certain to remain in eighth.

Indeed, the 80.8 per cent likelihood of Verona finishing in that position is bettered only by the chances of Empoli staying 14th (90.2 per cent) and Venezia remaining bottom (87.4 per cent) given the points margin either side.

VENEZIA AND TWO OTHERS TO DESCEND

Thursday's 2-1 defeat away to Salernitana looks to have spelled the end for Venezia's brief stint back in the top flight as it leaves them seven points from safety. Their chances of escaping the drop sit at 0.1 per cent.

Salernitana still have a 36.2 per cent chance of dropping into the bottom three, but given they face the team directly below them – Cagliari – and Empoli in their next two games, they will surely like those odds.

Another win for Salernitana on Sunday would be massive at the bottom, as such a result will relegate Venezia and potentially Genoa, whom the model gives only a 1.2 per cent likelihood of climbing up to 17th.

Spezia and Sampdoria aren't quite out of the woods yet, but their five-point cushions should be enough to keep them in Serie A. Everything points to Sunday's contest being almost a straight relegation play-off between Salernitana and Cagliari.

The model suggests with a 63.3 per cent probability that Cagliari will go down, but their fate is in their own hands.

Juventus came from behind to solidify their grip on a top-four spot and keep their Scudetto hopes alive with a 2-1 Serie A win at Cagliari.

Massimiliano Allegri has consistently rebuffed talk of Juve joining an absorbing three-way title race, but the Bianconeri are now just five points behind leaders Milan – albeit having played a game more – after victory in Sardinia.

Allegri's men were in danger of suffering a setback when Joao Pedro gave Cagliari an unexpected early lead and Luca Pellegrini then saw a goal controversially disallowed.

However, Juve pulled off a turnaround thanks to Matthijs de Ligt's leveller and Dusan Vlahovic's 75th-minute winner.

Relegation-threatened Cagliari had lost their previous four league games but took the lead in the 10th minute through Joao Pedro's sublime strike.

Paulo Dybala was dispossessed in midfield by Razvan Marin, who surged down the right and laid the ball off for Joao Pedro to steer it into the top-left corner.

Juve appeared to have levelled when Pellegrini's left-footed drive deflected beyond Alessio Cragno, but the visitors were left incensed as the goal was ruled out by the VAR for handball, with the ball striking Adrien Rabiot's elbow on its way in.

The Bianconeri continued to pepper the Cagliari goal, though, and their reward finally came on the stroke of half-time.

Juan Cuadrado saw a long-range effort turned behind, but the same man delivered a deft cross following the subsequent corner, with De Ligt arriving to power a header into the bottom-left corner.

Giorgio Chiellini had a goal ruled out for offside soon after the restart and Dybala fired over on the half-volley before later teeing up Cuadrado to shoot narrowly wide of the far post.

Juve's luck was finally in 15 minutes from the end of normal time as Vlahovic, having moments earlier been denied by Cragno, saw Giorgio Altare's attempted interception of Dybala's throughball deflect off his leg and beyond the unfortunate Cagliari goalkeeper. 

Massimiliano Allegri called on Juventus to improve their calmness and clinical finishing as he conceded his team cannot compete with Serie A title contenders Milan, Inter and Napoli.

Juve dominated for large periods against Inter in the Derby d'Italia, but Hakan Calhanoglu's penalty practically ended the Bianconeri's hopes for a late Scudetto surge following a remarkable unbeaten streak.

With Allegri's side also crashing out at the Champions League last-16 stage to Villarreal, their hopes of silverware hang on their Coppa Italia run, where they hold a 1-0 first-leg semi-final advantage over Fiorentina.

Allegri urged his team to improve on Saturday when they visit Cagliari, who have lost 10 of their last 11 league meetings with Juve – failing to score in eight of those games.

"There is just one possible reaction. Play good games. Tomorrow's match will be very different from the one against Inter," Allegri told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"It's never easy to win in Cagliari and we must be prepared, knowing the opponents, and their moment. We must win games, that's the only thing we must think about.

"Our target is to finish in the top four. For now, we are there, but Roma are close [five points behind]. That's why we need a great performance tomorrow. We can take no risks, we need to adapt to the game.

"We played the best games against Atalanta, Villarreal and Inter at home, but we were not clinical enough. We need to improve and be more calm in those situations.

"I can understand errors in one or two games, but three is an important number and that's why we need to improve.

 

"I've analysed what I saw against Inter. I always think about what the team is doing. We deserve to be fourth. We need to work to improve and we can improve before the end of the season.

"We can work on the development of individual footballers and we have more time because we'll play one game per week, except the Coppa Italia semi-final with Fiorentina.

"I don't like compliments, otherwise, we become a team that is satisfied with compliments and finds excuses. I don't want excuses or compliments, I want victories."

Paulo Dybala will leave Turin when his contract expires at the end of the season but the Argentina international has continued to feature despite a breakdown in talks.

Allegri will hope his striker can deliver and remain committed to the cause against Cagliari, given Dybala has scored six of his eight goals in the league this season against teams in the lower half of the table.

"We have time to work during the week but at the same time, we have targets," he continued. 

"Every player in the team must give his contribution and help us reach a top-four finish, regardless of their future. We have five or six players with a contract expiring. Right now, we must focus on the pitch and on getting results.

"I think Juventus have created a lot in the last three or four months. We haven't scored much and we must be more efficient up front.

"Had we won against Inter, we would have had a small chance [to win the title], but now we need to focus on our target. We are fourth and we deserved so, when we were 10th, we deserve to be 10th. The rest doesn't count."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli insisted "four teams can still win the Scudetto" after his side moved back to the top of Serie A with a 1-0 victory over Cagliari, which was marred by abuse directed at Mike Maignan.

The Rossoneri dominated for large parts on Saturday, but a lack of clinical finishing left them frustrated until just before the hour.

Ismael Bennacer stepped up with an exquisite volley into the bottom-left corner to edge Milan past Walter Mazzarri's side, who spurned two great opportunities through Joao Pedro and Keita Balde in response.

Victory meant Milan restored their three-point lead over Napoli, who defeated Udinese 2-1 earlier on Saturday, and they are six ahead of defending champions Inter, who have played a game fewer, after they were held by Fiorentina.

Juventus could cut the gap on the leaders to seven when they host Salernitana on Sunday, and Pioli believes the Scudetto race is far from over with eight games remaining for his side.

"Every game is an important crossroads now. I liked the team, even when we didn't score in the first half, as we played with quality and intensity," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"Cagliari caused us problems, but that's inevitable when you have two teams with such strong motivation."

Milan's triumph was their third straight win by a 1-0 scoreline and, while delighted with the result, Pioli would look to see his team be more ruthless in front of goal.

"We would like to score more and went close again several times today, but the important thing is to win," he added.

"We're doing great things, but we also know there are four sides that could still win the Scudetto. There's no point looking too far ahead, there's a long way to go and we need to concentrate only on our own path."

Milan's win was tainted, however. There was a commotion between the players after the final whistle, and Pioli confirmed that goalkeeper Mike Maignan had made claims he was racially abused by some Cagliari fans.

"Mike told me there was racist abuse from behind the goal," Pioli responded when asked about the scenes at full-time.

"It's always sad when these things happen, nobody deserves that."

Ismael Bennacer delivered the decisive second-half strike as Milan restored their three-point lead at the Serie A summit with a 1-0 victory at Cagliari on Saturday.

Napoli edged past Udinese to move level on points with Stefano Pioli's side earlier in the day, although fellow title contenders Inter were held to a 1-1 draw with Fiorentina.

Milan responded to those results with a vital victory despite an unconvincing performance at the Unipol Domus, with Bennacer's sumptuous volley from outside the area just before the hour mark proving the difference.

A third consecutive 1-0 win keeps the Rossoneri ahead of Napoli and widens the gap to Inter to six points, albeit the defending champions have a game in hand.

 

Olivier Giroud miscued a presentable chance on the volley in the opening stages following a headed pass by Junior Messias, while Franck Kessie struck the post with a low drive.

Milan continued to control first-half proceedings, but Alberto Grassi provided a scare when he drilled narrowly wide.

Although the sides headed in goalless at the interval, Pioli's visitors persisted following the restart, with Theo Hernandez's ambitious long-range effort forcing an acrobatic Alessio Cragno stop. 

Milan's reward for their efforts arrived shortly after when Giroud teed up Bennacer to expertly volley into the bottom-left corner, as the Rossoneri scored in a 15th consecutive away league game – equalling the club-record top-flight run they achieved in the 1967-68 season.

Joao Pedro wastefully sliced over in response, but Cragno kept his side in the game with a smart save from Giroud that could have proved crucial had Matteo Lovato not headed wide before Keita Balde struck the crossbar – misses that instead secured a big win for Milan in the Scudetto chase.

Wojciech Szczesny has warned Juventus against playing with arrogance, despite their 2-0 win over Cagliari on Tuesday.

Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi were on target as Massimiliano Allegri's side closed the gap on the top four in Serie A to four points.

Kean put the hosts ahead in the 40th minute after they enjoyed 67.9 per cent of possession during the first half at the Allianz Stadium.

That figure slipped slightly to 59.3 per cent after the break as the Bianconeri allowed Cagliari a little more of the ball, though that seemed to provide Juve with more space in the final third as their shot count of 10 in the second period was double their first-half tally.

 

But before getting a second goal, Juve never looked truly comfortable. They dropped two points in similar fashion at Venezia 10 days earlier and were almost punished again as Cagliari saw two brilliant chances go begging – Dalbert narrowly failed to convert a cross, before Szczesny tipped over Joao Pedro's header.

Bernardeschi eventually secured a fifth win in six games with seven minutes remaining, but despite that and their greater shot frequency, Szczesny was left frustrated by what he perceived as negativity and a lack of intensity from Juve.

"We worked hard, but I think there's a lot we need to improve still – both in defence and up front," he told DAZN.

"Sometimes at 1-0, we relax and sit a bit too deep, but that's not good in the long run. We play arrogantly in those situations and I don't like it.

"It happened many times, including in Venezia when we conceded. We sit too deep in the second half. We can't keep lowering the level of intensity for 10 to 15 minutes every time. 

"It went alright today, but we dropped two points against Venezia, so we can't keep doing that."

Federico Bernardeschi played a part in both goals as Juventus edged past Cagliari 2-0 to extend their unbeaten run in Serie A to five matches and make up ground on the top four.

Massimiliano Allegri's men had defeated Cagliari in nine of their previous 10 league meetings but were unable able to seriously assert their authority and were nearly made to pay before killing off the game late on.

Having earlier gone close with a header against the post, Moise Kean opened the scoring for Juve five minutes before half-time in their final match of a disappointing 2021.

Juve survived a couple of big scares in the second half before Bernardeschi, who created Kean's opener, struck in the 83rd minute to seal a win that moves the Bianconeri within four points of fourth-placed Atalanta, who drew 0-0 with Genoa elsewhere on Tuesday.

 

Kean headed Juan Cuadrado's right-sided cross against the upright with a thumping header 10 minutes into what proved a frustrating first half for the hosts.

However, the breakthrough duly arrived shortly before the interval when Kean adjusted his body to guide Bernardeschi's deflected cross past Alessio Cragno.

Cagliari, who have now conceded in 23 successive away league meetings with Juve, wasted a big chance to equalise before the hour as Dalbert steered wide from seven yards.

Joao Pedro did at least manage to test Wojciech Szczesny eight minutes later with a header down the middle that the Juve keeper tipped over.

But Juve made certain of the points through Bernardeschi's angled drive at the end of a counter, the winger ending a run of 513 days without a goal in Serie A.

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has dismissed agent Mino Raiola's suggestion that Matthijs de Ligt was ready to move on, saying the defender's next step is "to score goals".

Raiola claimed on Sunday that the centre-back was ready for a new step and suggested that the player shares the same view.

However, the 22-year-old has been performing well this term despite Juventus' struggles, with the Bianconeri seventh in Serie A, 12 points behind league leaders Inter.

Allegri was dismissive when asked about the agent's comments ahead of Juventus' clash with Cagliari on Tuesday, focusing instead on how the defender can improve and help the team.

"The step is to score goals tomorrow!" Allegri said in his pre-match press conference on Monday.

"I didn't hear the interview. I can only say that in [the 2-0 win over] Bologna he made two interventions as a great defender. He can still grow like all players."

De Ligt has been a regular fixture in Juve's defence this term, starting 13 times in 18 Serie A games and is becoming a dominant force in the air, competing for the most aerial duels per 90 minutes in the side (4.71) and winning 2.99 of them – also a club high.

Allegri is also still waiting for star forward Paolo Dybala to officially pen new terms, with the 28-year-old out of contract at the end of this season, and confirmed that the club plan to be active in the transfer window ahead of next season.

"I only know that there was a meeting the other day," Allegri continued. "I did not speak, I do not know the developments. It's an important contract.

"We have to work [in the transfer market], we have five months to do it. We have to be concentrated and be calm."

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi said the Nerazzurri can be proud of their efforts after moving top of Serie A, but insisted there is plenty of work still to be done.

Defending champions Inter moved a point clear of city rivals Milan at the Serie A summit following a 4-0 rout of Cagliari at San Siro on Sunday.

Lautaro Martinez scored twice – and missed a penalty – while Alexis Sanchez and Hakan Calhanoglu were also on target for high-flying Inter.

It was a dominant display as Inter enjoyed a whopping 75.2 per cent of the possession, registered 24 shots and, but for the heroics of Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, they could easily have extended their winning margin.

Inter are also through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and will discover their last-16 opponents in Monday's draw.

Inzaghi was pleased with the way his players responded from their midweek defeat to Real Madrid, but maintained they cannot afford to take anything for granted.

"The lads did really well. I had asked for concentration and focus, as I saw this weekend so many big clubs struggle after European games," he told DAZN.

"I knew Cagliari would be organised, and we needed the right approach. I congratulated them at half-time for their attitude as, although it was only 1-0, they had the right performance, and we just needed to convert more of those chances.

"We are top of the table; we reached the Champions League round of 16 after 11 years, so it's hard to do better."

Inter have won 18 home games in 2021 and have never done better in a single calendar year in Serie A.

Meanwhile, Inter scored 98 goals in Serie A this year, only in 1950 the Nerazzurri scored more goals (99) in a calendar year in the top flight.

"I knew we were playing well from the very start; that was 23 games ago, but there's a long road ahead. We've done well to put together a run of positive results," Inzaghi added.

"Now that we are top, naturally we want to stay there. However, we were seven or eight points off the top just a month ago, so we know it's a tricky and very open season.

"Our aim for Christmas was to reach the Champions League round of 16, because Inter deserved to be there after 11 years, and we did it with a game in hand. Now, we can focus on Serie A for the next few weeks."

Lautaro Martinez scored twice as Inter went top of Serie A with a commanding 4-0 win over Cagliari at San Siro.

Martinez, who also had a penalty saved, opened the scoring with a first-half header and Alexis Sanchez doubled the lead shortly after the restart.

Hakan Calhanoglu’s thumping 25-yard strike increased the advantage, before Martinez put the icing on the cake by taking his Serie A tally for the season to 10 with a neat finish.

Simone Inzaghi's side moved a point clear of city rivals Milan at the summit of the table after an eighth win in 10 league meetings with the Rossoblu.

No team have scored more goals from set-pieces than Inter in Serie A this season.

So it was no surprise that the hosts netted another to open the scoring against the side that had conceded the most in the Italian top flight, with Martinez powerfully heading in from Calhanoglu’s corner just before the half-hour mark.

Martinez had a great chance to add a second just before the break after Denzel Dumfries was brought down by Alessio Cragno in the box, but the goalkeeper redeemed himself by guessing correctly to keep out the spot-kick.

Inter doubled their lead within five minutes of the restart as Sanchez neatly guided home Nicolo Barella's cross on the volley.

Calhanoglu got in on the act 66 minutes in as he beat Cragno with a stunning long-range strike.

Martinez was on target again two minutes later; latching onto Barella's lofted through ball before slotting in his sixth league goal against Cagliari in seven appearances.

Sanchez rattled the bar late on as the defending champions made an emphatic statement as they rose to the summit.

Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne stressed the Serie A leaders are staying grounded amid their flawless start to the season.

Insigne scored as red-hot Napoli – who have not claimed the Scudetto since 1990 – made it six wins from six league games with a 2-0 victory at home to Cagliari on Sunday.

Napoli star Victor Osimhen opened the scoring in the 11th minute before Insigne doubled the lead with a penalty 12 minutes into the second half.

Luciano Spalletti's Napoli have won each of their first six Serie A seasonal matches for the second time in their history after 2017-18, but Insigne insisted the team are not getting carried away.

"We've started well, but we need to keep our heads down, our feet on the ground, because it's a very, very long road ahead," Insigne told DAZN, with Napoli two points clear of Milan.

"It's an incredible feeling [with the fans], I am trying to enjoy it and repay everyone with my performances and helping the team to win the games."

Napoli have kept a clean sheet in three consecutive Serie A matches for the first time since February 2019.

Osimhen, meanwhile, has scored the joint-most goals in September across all competitions among the players in the top five European leagues – level with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema.

"The coach wants us to enjoy ourselves while we are working," Insigne said. "As captain, I can only say we need to keep our feet on the ground, as we missed out on the Champions League by a point last season, so we have to make up for that.

"We try to play Spalletti's football, he knows we were disappointed to only be in the Europa League and he’' trying to lift us up."

Stefano Pioli is open to fielding Olivier Giroud alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic this season after the Frenchman opened his Milan account with two goals against Cagliari.

Giroud curled in a delightful first-time shot to get off the mark on his San Siro bow and doubled his tally from the penalty spot in Sunday's Serie A clash as Milan ran out 4-1 winners.

With that first-half double, Giroud became the first player to score multiple times in his first home league match for the Rossoneri since Mario Balotelli in February 2013.

Ibrahimovic has been Milan's go-to man up top when fit since returning to the Italian club in January 2020, but the veteran striker is currently sidelined with a knee injury sustained in May.

Pioli hopes to have Ibrahimovic back after the international break in two weeks' time, however, and he is not against tweaking formation to pair the Swede with Giroud in attack.

"I am very open to all situations," Milan head coach Pioli told DAZN. "I'll take it one game at a time to pick the best line-up for that match. 

"When we have the need for two strikers, I will not hesitate to use them together. I just hope to have everyone back to full fitness."

 

Ibrahimovic watched from the stands as Giroud added to goals from Sandro Tonali and Rafael Leao, which came either side of Alessandro Deiola's temporary equaliser in the first half.

Milan scored four-plus goals in the opening half of a Serie A fixture for the first time since November 2011.

Asked if he is looking forward to linking up with former Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic, Giroud said: "He is a great champion and very important in the locker room. 

"We want to play together, but I am happy playing with any of my team-mates. It doesn't matter who plays, it's important to respect the decisions of the coach."

It was the first time Giroud has scored a league brace since April 2018, for Chelsea against Southampton, and the 34-year-old revelled in the manner his home debut turned out.

"I'm very proud to play for Milan and in a stadium like San Siro," he told DAZN. "I'm happy with the team performance because we started the game playing our style of football. 

"We really connected on the pitch and could've scored more, while the support from the fans was incredible."

Giroud has inherited the number nine shirt at Milan, which is one of the most iconic jerseys in football but has more recently become a poisoned chalice of sorts.

Mario Mandzukic, Krzysztof Piatek and Gonzalo Higuain have all failed to live up to its reputation, yet Giroud is unfazed by the weight of expectation.

"I heard there was something special about the number nine shirt, but I am not superstitious," he said. "I believe in myself and my abilities. 

"As a kid, I watched Marco van Basten, Jean-Pierre Papin and Filippo Inzaghi wear this shirt, so it makes me happy to be here now."

Milan have won their opening two Serie A games this season, just like they did last time out, but face a tough run of games upon their return to action next month.

The Rossoneri meet a Lazio side sitting top of the division on goal difference and rivals Juventus in their next two league matches, either side of kicking off their Champions League return with a trip to Liverpool.

"We've got a remarkable run of games coming up after the break, so we need to keep this mentality and enthusiasm," Pioli said.

"If we really want a positive future, we must treat everyone as first-choice players. We're missing some at the moment, a couple more might arrive, but we must train the way we want to play and play the way we train.

"We are getting used to playing entertaining football and enjoying ourselves, but we must also remember that the great teams are also capable of winning ugly."

Page 1 of 3
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.