CL: Inter boss Antonio Conte hails 'gentle giant' Lukaku on eve of Dortmund clash

Updated: Oct 23, 2019, 14:35 IST | AFP | Milan

Lukaku, 26, scored a brace last weekend against Sassuolo to keep Inter second in Serie A, one point behind defending champs Juventus, after eight games

Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku

Milan: Italian coach Antonio Conte has made his "gentle giant" Romelu Lukaku the focus of Inter Milan's attack ahead of tonight's Champions league clash with Borussia Dortmund. The Belgian got off the mark in his first league match against Lecce and has since scored five goals in eight Serie A games since leaving Man United under a cloud last summer. Lukaku, 26, scored a brace last weekend against Sassuolo to keep Inter second in Serie A, one point behind defending champs Juventus, after eight games.

It followed his double as Belgium sealed their Euro 2020 ticket, extending his national all-time record to 51 goals in 83 appearances. Conte's side host Group F leaders Dortmund in their third Champions League game tonight, having been held 1-1 to Slavia Prague and losing 1-2 at Barcelona, with Lukaku missing the trip to Spain with a thigh injury.

Inter's gamble

Inter gambled big by investing around 80 million euros ($89 million) in Lukaku to restore the pairing he composed under the Red Devils' jersey with Alexis Sanchez. Chilean Sanchez made just four appearances for Inter before being ruled out for three months with an ankle injury. But Lukaku has still impressed alongside Argentine Lautaro Martinez, who also scored a double at the weekend against Sassuolo.

Weight problem

The Belgian's high energy levels and sharp play are in contrast to United where he spent two seasons, scoring 42 goals in 96 appearances, but just 15 last season. He was criticised for his weight and professionalism and fell down the pecking order once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho. Conte had been a long-time admirer of Lukaku and tried to sign him for Chelsea before the Belgian's move from Everton to United.

Antonio ConteAntonio Conte

"Lukaku entered the Inter world in the best of ways, with great humility, he's a good giant, a giant with a smile," said Conte, who is trying to break Juventus's stranglehold in Italy and win Inter's first title since their treble under Mourinho in 2010. Despite being targetted by racist chants in a league tie at Cagliari, Lukaku has no regrets about choosing Italy, and above all Conte. "Between him and I there is a very strong relationship. I'm happy. At 26, I want a coach like this, who helps me every day and gives me motivation. He's the best manager in the world," said Lukaku.

Dortmund without ill skipper Reus

Berlin: Borussia Dortmund flew to Italy without captain Marco Reus and striker Paco Alcacer for tonight's Champions League match at Inter Milan, but previously suspended England winger Jadon Sancho and injured goalkeeper Roman Burki were included. The Bundesliga club said the Reus, 30, is "still in poor health" after scoring in Saturday's 1-0 win over Bundesliga leaders Moenchengladbach despite suffering from flu.

Champions league on TV

  • Ajax v Chelsea: Sony Ten 2 & Ten 2 HD, 22:25
  • Genk v Liverpool: Sony SIX & SIX HD, 00:30, (Thursday)
  • Salzburg v Napoli: Sony ESPN & Sony ESPN HD, 12:30 (Thursday)
  • Inter v Dortmund: Sony Ten 2 & Ten 2 HD, 00:30 (Thursday)
  • Slavia P v Barcelona: Sony Ten 1 & Ten 1 HD, 00:30 (Thursday)
  • Lille v Valencia: Sony Ten 3 & Ten 3 HD, 00:30 (Thursday)

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