Romelu Lukaku answered any recent criticism aimed in his direction against Lazio and Christian Eriksen is starting to understand what Inter require of him, says Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte.
Inter bowed out of the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage after a goalless draw at Juventus ensured a 2-1 aggregate defeat, but a 3-1 triumph over Lazio on Sunday saw Conte’s side leapfrog rivals Milan at the top of Serie A.
Lukaku scored twice in the first half to move on to 300 career goals, and Lautaro Martinez was on target after Gonzalo Escalante had replied for the visitors at San Siro.
Speaking about the Belgium striker’s showing, Conte told Sky Sport: “Romelu, like the whole team, gave a great response. Lautaro did, so did Ivan Perisic, the defenders, Marcelo Brozovic. They all stepped up.
“Some were starting to murmur about Lukaku after the Coppa Italia and a few lacklustre performances, suggesting he had some psychological blowback from that, but there are moments when you are not at 100 per cent.
“He came back firing on all cylinders and we need this Romelu. We need this determination and passion from everyone in the team.”
| BIG ROM
— Inter (@Inter_en) February 14, 2021
Eriksen signed from Tottenham amid much fanfare in January 2020 but struggled to hit the ground running and was heavily linked with an exit last month.
However, the Denmark playmaker stayed put and has since impressed, something Conte puts down to becoming familiar with the requirements of Italian football.
“I think Christian had a few problems settling in, understanding Italian football, which is very difficult and tactical compared to the Premier League. There is also a far greater intensity now than in previous years here,” Conte added.
“We tried in every way to settle him in, even changing tactical system. I think now he has made a step towards us, is starting to understand Italian, which is an important development too. He is understanding what we need.
“Eriksen was very focused when defending as well as attacking. He has a different power to his leg now after the fitness work.
“He’s an extra option for us and I am more comfortable relying on him now.”
Next up for Inter is a huge derby clash with Milan, a match that is sure to have huge ramifications on the outcome of the Scudetto.
Conte is relishing the challenge after seeing off a Lazio side that had won six straight league games.
“This was an objective we’d been chasing for a long time, to get to the top of the table, we achieved it after a game against a very strong team,” he added.
“I congratulate Lazio and Simone Inzaghi, as they are tough, organised and with a lot of quality.
“The fact they were coming off six consecutive victories shows their strength, but at the same time it shows our mental strength.
“I am happy for the lads, inevitably this must be a starting point for us and not the finish line. We know the next game is the derby with Milan, going into it ahead is obviously much better.
“It’s going to be a fascinating game between two teams who have strong ambitions.”