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.”

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.

Udinese's Serie A clash with Salernitana did not take place on Tuesday after the visitors failed to turn up at the Dacia Arena.

It was already known that bottom side Salernitana would not make the trip after they were ordered not to travel by the local health authority due to a number of positive coronavirus cases in the squad.

Udinese, however, undertook their normal matchday routine and even named their starting XI.

Udinese director Pierpaolo Marino told DAZN: "The league is right not to postpone the game. They have a duty to protect the regularity of the league season and a game must not be postponed because a player tests positive.

"We went to Rome to play Lazio with seven players and our coach out with COVID-19 last season, and we won 3-1."

A similar situation happened last season when Napoli failed to turn up to face Juventus, with the Partenopei forced to forfeit the match.

Napoli subsequently won an appeal and the match was replayed.

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.

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."

Kieran Trippier has long been linked with a move back to England.

The 31-year-old full back has plied his trade in Spain for the past two-and-a-half years.

Trippier spent time with Manchester City, Burnley and Tottenham before joining Atletico Madrid, but seems set for a Premier League return next month.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO TO PERMIT TRIPPIER MOVE

Atleti are set to allow England international Trippier to join Newcastle United in January according to the Daily Mail.

The report claims that Atleti are hoping for £15million (€18m) from cashed-up Newcastle, who need reinforcements in their bid to avoid relegation.

Atleti will let the deal progress if they can find a suitable replacement for the defender during January.

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Juventus will switch their attention to signing an attacking player in January to boost their Champions League qualification hopes, with Manchester United pair Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial, Paris Saint-Germain's Mauro Icardi and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their sights.

- AS reports that Eden Hazard does not want to leave Real Madrid in the January transfer window, despite struggling for impact with Los Blancos.

Chelsea are set to make a move for Wolverhampton's Ruben Neves according to TodoFichajes. Thomas Tuchel wants to reinforce the midfield with Saul Niguez having underwhelmed since joining in August.

Real Madrid are plotting a move to sign Internazionale's Netherlands international Denzel Dumfries reports Defensa Central.

- Veteran Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho is set to extend his stay with Manchester City, scuppering interest from Atletico Mineiro, reports Sport Witness.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli claimed his side did not deserve to lose against Napoli, dismissing any suggestion the Rossoneri's fitness levels have dropped.

Napoli headed to San Siro having lost consecutive league games but were ahead inside five minutes when Eljif Elmas managed his first league goal since early November – Napoli scoring their quickest top-flight goal against Milan since November 2012.

Visiting goalkeeper David Ospina was rarely called upon in a somewhat sedate affair, though Franck Kessie saw a stoppage-time finish ruled out by VAR for offside against Olivier Giroud, who was on the floor in the build-up to the midfielder's opportunity.

Napoli held on for back-to-back league clean sheets against Milan for the first time since 2015, as Luciano Spalletti's team leapfrogged Milan to move into second on goal difference, the pair four points back from leaders Inter.

However, Pioli – without a win against Spalletti in nine league meetings – believes his side's performance did not warrant a loss as he refuted suggestions Milan might be flagging in terms of fitness.

"We are not tired, we proved it tonight [Sunday]," Pioli told DAZN. "Yes we can play with more quality, certainly, but we played a game from the point of view of intensity and energy among the best in the league.

"From a physical and willpower point of view, the team were pleasing in every way. We missed the last step.

"But there are the regrets, such as the goal conceded and the balls lost. We played almost always in the Napoli half, we played a real, serious and energetic game. We are lacking a bit of quality at the moment, but the team didn't deserve to lose. The data is very close in victories and defeats, the team had a balanced performance.

"The important numbers that we take into consideration are the acceleration and deceleration; the numbers are more or less those from the start of the season. The coach's eyes are also important, and the team didn't do badly tonight."

 

Pioli's team would have been heading into the final Serie A matchday of 2021, when they visit Empoli on Wednesday, in second place if Kessie's late strike had not been ruled out.

The Milan head coach, who was pictured by television cameras among the celebrations near Napoli's goal for the apparent equaliser, accepted the decision – but still expressed confusion as to how Giroud was adjudged to be involved in the play.

"I know that in the end they will say that the ruling is right, but I ask how does a player on the ground, who does nothing to intervene, how does he cause damage to the defender? Giroud does nothing to intervene," Pioli said.

"Now let's lick our wounds and try to do better for Wednesday."

Eljif Elmas' first-half strike was the difference as Napoli leapfrogged Milan into second in Serie A with a 1-0 victory on Sunday. 

Luciano Spalletti's side lost consecutive league games against Atalanta and Empoli but struck first after just four minutes at San Siro through Elmas' header – his first top-flight goal since August.

Stefano Pioli's team pressed on in the second half but were unable to mount a comeback as their winless home league run against Napoli – which dates back to December 2014 – continued, although only a VAR intervention denied Franck Kessie a late equaliser.
 
Napoli overtake Milan to move into second, with the pair four points back from reigning champions Inter heading into the final matchday of 2021 on Wednesday.

The visitors were soon ahead when Elmas nodded in Piotr Zielinski's corner at the near post, Napoli scoring their fastest Serie A goal against Milan since November 2012.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic responded by flicking a header wide, while Alessandro Florenzi blasted a speculative long-range half-volley just off target as Milan failed to test David Ospina before the interval.

Ospina, though, was required immediately after the break to palm over from Ibrahimovic, with the Colombia international denying Junior Messias moments later.

Napoli had conceded six of their past seven league goals in the final 30 minutes, while Milan had scored the joint-most in that period (15), and Messias almost furthered that record but curled just wide.

Kessie thought he had netted a late leveller as he swept into the bottom-left corner, only for VAR to judge the prone substitute Olivier Giroud to be offside as the visitors managed to hang on to an important victory.

Matthijs de Ligt believes he is ready for a new challenge, according to the Juventus centre-back's agent Mino Raiola.

Former Ajax captain De Ligt left his boyhood club for pastures new in Turin in 2019, but initially underwhelmed following his €75million transfer.

However, the Netherlands international has been reinvigorated under new Bianconeri head coach Massimiliano Allegri, starting 13 of the 14 games he has featured in for his 1,203 Serie A minutes in 2021-22.

Alongside learning from veteran duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, De Ligt is turning into the dominant figure that he was expected to become – last committing an error leading to a chance in the league in his debut 2019-20 campaign.

Additionally, no Juve defender is competing for more aerial duels per 90 minutes than De Ligt (4.71), who also leads club charts among his fellow rearguard stars as he wins 2.99 of those contests per match.

The 22-year-old is seemingly becoming a force to be reckoned with at the back, but De Ligt is said to remain open to all options as he looks to further fulfil his potential.

Agent Raiola, who also boasts Paul Pogba, Erling Haaland and Gianluigi Donnarumma among his client list, revealed De Ligt's stance in an interview released on Sunday.

"[De Ligt] is ready for a new step ... he thinks that too," Raiola said, quoted by Dutch outlet NRC.

 

Raiola's comment comes just a day after Juventus chief executive Maurizio Arrivabene told Bianconeri supporters "they can forget" about the prospect of big-money signings during the January transfer window, insisting the club must focus on stability.

Juve announced an increase in capital earlier this week, with 91.75 per cent of the overall shares subscribed for approximately €366.9million.

De Ligt has previously been linked with the likes of Barcelona, where his former Ajax colleague and international compatriot Frenkie de Jong plays.

Dusan Vlahovic matched Cristiano Ronaldo's momentous 33-goal year with Juventus as the Fiorentina striker scored again – leaving him a hat-trick short of an all-time Serie A record.

The 21-year-old Serbian scored for the sixth game in succession on Sunday, helping Fiorentina battle back from two goals down at half-time to draw 2-2 with Sassuolo.

Vlahovic will match a calendar year goals record set by Gunnar Nordahl in 1950 if he nets three times against Hellas Verona on Wednesday.

That is Fiorentina's last game of the year, as Serie A goes on its winter break, but Vlahovic has already equalled Ronaldo's 21st century record, which was established just last year.

Nordahl's epic 36-goal year for Milan marks the last time any player scored more than 33 in the Italian top flight across a calendar year.

 

Only one player has scored in more than six consecutive Serie A games for Fiorentina, with Argentine great Gabriel Batistuta netting in 11 straight fixtures in 1994.

Vlahovic has 16 league goals in the current season, and he was eager for more before being substituted in the 88th minute against Sassuolo, a decision that left him unimpressed.

Despite making his feelings known to coach Vincenzo Italiano, the pair were soon back on good terms.

"He wasn't happy to come off, but we made up, he'll buy me a dinner," Italiano later said, according to Sky Italia.

Ronaldo scored 33 Serie A goals in 2020 for Juventus, at an astonishing rate of one every 76.24 minutes.

Vlahovic has matched the haul but not the regularity, with his 33 coming along at one per 111.67 minutes on the pitch.

They have come from an expected goals (xG) total of just 22.4, however, pointing to razor-sharp finishing from a player who has been linked with Europe's elite amid his impressive run of form.

Only three players in Serie A history have scored more than Vlahovic in Fiorentina's first 18 league games of a season, Opta said. Those players were Miguel Angel Montuori (17 in 1958-59), Batistuta (17 in 1998-99) and Luca Toni (16 in 2005-06).

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future at Arsenal is murky.

Aubameyang lost the captaincy and was suspended for disciplinary reasons last week.

The 32-year-old has been with Arsenal since moving from Borussia Dortmund in 2018.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE INTERESTED IN AUBA MOVE

Tuttosport claims that Juventus are interested in signing Aubameyang with his future at Arsenal uncertain.

The Gabon international was stripped of the Gunners captaincy last week for disciplinary reasons, creating doubts about his future under Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.

The Bianconeri would be interested in signing the 32-year-old on a six-month loan deal.

ROUND-UP

- Cashed-up Newcastle United are looking to sign Anthony Martial on loan from Manchester United in January, reports the Sun.

- Barcelona have made Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani their top January target according to Sport.

- Barcelona are also interested in forgotten Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata, claims the Star.

- The Sun claims Leeds United are considering a move for Juventus' US international Weston McKennie who is valued at £20 million.

- AS reports that Manchester United are set to enter into the race for Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Chelsea are also keen on the French defender.

- Manchester City are set to reward Bernardo Silva for his good form, with a lucrative new contract where his salary will be doubled, claims the Sun.

Massimiliano Allegri was pleased with Juventus' improved "attitude" as they ran out 2-0 winners over Bologna at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on Saturday.

The Bianconeri were held to a 1-1 draw by Venezia in their last Serie A outing, but they cruised to all three points against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side thanks to goals in each half from Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado.

Juve have now kept five clean sheets in Serie A since November – a joint-record among the top five European leagues in this period, level with Inter.

The performance was a marked improvement from the one at Venezia, and Allegri wants plenty more of that from his sixth-placed team as they bid to climb the table.

"Everyone collaborated when defending, which is how it ought to be," he told DAZN. "Compared to Venezia, we had a better attitude from the start, but we need to do more going forward.

"Bologna have a lot of quality, so it's natural they were going to have some chances. We did well here, but cannot lower our guard now, as there are many head-to-head clashes coming up in January before the Champions League resumes.

"It is a good result that keeps us in the running for fourth place, but we mustn't lower our guard now. It's a long journey, with many young and inexperienced players. We knew from the start it would not be easy to finish in the top four or challenge for the Scudetto.

"We've got one game left in 2021, then we look forward to these exciting clashes in January."

 

Midfielder Arthur was replaced after 61 minutes by Manuel Locatelli, with the former Barcelona man looking less than impressed with the decision.

Allegri expressed no regrets over the call and had some words of advice for the Brazil international.

"We still need to improve our reading of the game and various moments of the match, for instance just before half-time Arthur made this vertical pass when it was the time to hold on and control the possession," he explained.

"It's different at Barcelona; he was in a three-man midfield and not accustomed to sitting in front of the defence.

"He also is used to taking a lot more touches than we do here. I think if he plays in front of the defence with the right mentality and his technique, he can do well.

"His head was wobbling as he ran. He seemed tired so I took him off."

Juventus racked up an 11th consecutive Serie A win over Bologna as goals from Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado sealed a 2-0 win at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

The Bianconeri were held to a 1-1 draw by Venezia in their last top-flight outing but they never looked in danger of dropping more points after Morata's early opener. 

Massimiliano Allegri's side largely toiled in the second period, yet Cuadrado ensured there was to be no nervy finish with a deflected strike in the 69th minute. 

The result lifted Juventus up to sixth, level on 31 points with fifth-placed Roma, while Bologna remained in 10th.

Juve went ahead in the sixth minute when Morata lashed past Lukasz Skorupski from six yards after being superbly picked out by Federico Bernardeschi.

Mattias Svanberg went close with an audacious overhead kick midway through the first half as Bologna responded well to that early setback, though they could not find a leveller before the interval.

Juve offered little in the way of attacking threat immediately after the break, only making sure of the win when Cuadrado's powerful strike from just inside the penalty area was deflected past Skorupski by Aaron Hickey. 

That goal freed up the visitors to push forward in the closing stages, with Bernardeschi's low strike tipped wide by Skorupski, yet they ultimately failed to add further gloss to the scoreline.

What does it mean? Juve swat aside hosts

It has been a challenging return to Juve for Allegri this season, but there were signs here that things might be clicking into place. They looked robust in defence – limiting Bologna to just three shots on target – while they were ruthless in attack.

He will be looking for plenty more of that as they look to cut into Inter’s 12-point lead at the Serie A summit.

Morata enjoying life on the road

Morata has now found the back of the net in three consecutive away games. It is the first time the Spain international has done that in one of the big five European leagues since May 2017 when he struck in four straight matches on the road with Real Madrid.

Kean off the pace

Moise Kean endured a difficult 71 minutes before he was replaced by Dejan Kulusevski, the Italy international failing to have a single shot or play a key pass. This was his sixth straight Serie A outing without a goal.

What's next?

Juve wrap up 2021 with a home game against Cagliari on Tuesday, while Bologna travel to Sassuolo a day later before the mid-season break. 

Juventus CEO Maurizio Arrivabene has told supporters "they can forget" about the prospect of making big-money signings during the January transfer window, insisting the club must focus on stability.

The Bianconeri announced an increase in capital earlier this week, with 91.75 per cent of the overall shares subscribed for approximately €366.9million.

Juve been heavily linked with a move striker next month, with Dusan Vlahovic, Mauro Icardi and Anthony Martial touted as potential targets.

But Arrivabene explained that player recruitment is not the club's primary focus in the near future.

The CEO told DAZN: "I think it is important to clarify a few things, which is that the increase in capital showed the shareholders have faith in the club's plans to re-launch and resolve our issues.

"However, I want to make it very clear that this is to bring stability to the club accounts. It is absolutely not a financial operation, so we can make some big splash on the transfer market.

"If anyone is expecting some big coups in January, they can forget it. 

"This club has been hit hard by two years of COVID, and we are focused on re-launching, reflecting and evaluating, so we can then do what the economic situation allows us to do."

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