Barcelona could keep Philippe Coutinho after all, while Gareth Bale is seemingly set to stay at Real Madrid.

Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich this season, has been heavily linked with a permanent move away from Barca.

Meanwhile, Bale is said to be considering his Madrid future, but could yet remain at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – COUTINHO TO STAY AT BARCELONA

Barcelona coach Quique Setien has found a solution for Coutinho and could play the Brazil international in midfield, according to Marca.

The report says Setien has in mind an option of playing Coutinho as a number eight.

A playmaker, Coutinho has made 32 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season.

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move away, Bale is committed to staying at Real Madrid, according to AS, which also says the club have told forward Luka Jovic his future is at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Barcelona are said to be chasing Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. Sky Sports reports the LaLiga club have offered Spurs Samuel Umtiti and Nelson Semedo for Ndombele. The Mirror says Tottenham have no intention of selling the France international. Sport, meanwhile, says Barca want €45million for Semedo.

- Alexis Sanchez's future remains uncertain. The Sun says neither Manchester United nor Inter, where he is on loan this season, want the Chile international.

- Out of contract at Arsenal in 2021, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be set for an exit this close season. The Daily Mail reports the Premier League outfit are ready to listen to offers for the forward.

- Dries Mertens is set to attract plenty of interest with his Napoli contract expiring. The Mirror reports Chelsea want the forward, who is the Serie A club's equal all-time leading goalscorer.

- That could impact Olivier Giroud's future at Chelsea, where he is out of contract at season's end. The Mirror says Chelsea are ready to activate a one-year extension for the striker, while Tuttosport reports Inter are still considering the France forward.

Neymar, Lautaro Martinez or both? Barcelona may have a decision to make this close season.

Neymar has been linked with a return to Camp Nou, while the LaLiga giants are also reportedly interested in Inter star Martinez.

Barcelona could be forced to choose between the two in the next transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR, MARTINEZ OR BOTH? BARCELONA'S BIG DECISION

Barcelona want both Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and Inter's Martinez but know it will be difficult to land the duo, according to Sport.

It reports landing Martinez is shaping to be easier as Inter are willing to accept players as part of a deal.

Martinez has scored 16 goals in 31 games for Inter this season, while Neymar has netted 18 times in 22 appearances for PSG.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United could be turning to an old target. ESPN reports the Premier League club are prepared to make a bid for Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt if the Serie A giants are open to a sale this close season.

- Harry Kane's future at Tottenham seemingly remains unclear. But The Daily Mail says Spurs are confident of keeping the forward, who said on Monday he would not stay at the club just "for the sake of it".

- It looks like Jadon Sancho to Liverpool will not be happening. The Mirror claims the Premier League leaders are not targeting the Borussia Dortmund star, leaving United and Chelsea as the English clubs still in the chase.

- Where will Philippe Coutinho end up next season? Sport reports Leicester City are interested in a loan deal for the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona. Staying at Camp Nou and Sport says Barcelona are considering a move for Layvin Kurzawa, who is out of contract at PSG at season's end, as a back-up to Jordi Alba.

- Edinson Cavani is also out of contract at the end of the season at PSG, but CalcioMercato reports the Uruguayan striker will not be joining Atletico Madrid, the club he has been linked to.

- With Alexis Sanchez set to return to Manchester United from his loan spell at Inter, The Sun reports the club will be forced to pay the attacker a £1.1million loyalty payment.

There could be a number of goalkeeping changes around Europe.

With Kepa Arrizabalaga's future uncertain at Chelsea, Manuel Neuer is reportedly an option for Frank Lampard's side.

Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen has also been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TARGET NEUER

Chelsea are interested in signing Bayern Munich captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, according to Sport Bild.

Lampard's Chelsea are reportedly looking to move on from Kepa – the world's most expensive goalkeeper after leaving Athletic Bilbao in 2018.

Neuer is on Chelsea's radar, with the Germany star yet to agree a new deal at Bayern, who have been linked to fellow German and Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen.

ROUND-UP

Leonardo Bonucci to Manchester City? Calciomercato claims Pep Guardiola is "obsessed" with Bonucci and wants to bring the Juventus defender to the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season. Juve, however, are unwilling to sell the Italy international.

- The Mirror claims Barcelona are tracking Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. The Frenchman became Tottenham's club-record signing ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, but he has struggled in London amid criticism from head coach Jose Mourinho. Spurs have been linked to RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer.

- Bayern star David Alaba is likely to leave the Bundesliga champions at the end of the season, reports Sky Sport Germany. It comes as reports link the Austria international to Barca and Real Madrid. Meanwhile, The Sun claims City are set to be offered Alaba and cash for Leroy Sane.

Inter are considering a move to sign Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen as a free agent at season's end, says Calciomercato. The Nerazzurri are also unwilling to keep Alexis Sanchez, who is on loan from Manchester United.

Mauro Icardi has turned down a transfer to LaLiga in order to push for a move to Juventus, according to Elgoldigital. Icardi is on loan at Paris Saint-Germain from Inter.

- Calciomercato says United and Tottenham have made offers for Inter centre-back Diego Godin. The reports adds United are looking to sign both Godin and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar on Saturday with more major events and competitions being disrupted.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the globe, it has resulted in the postponement of competitions worldwide as governments attempt to combat the pandemic.

A small number of events still went ahead, but sports stars, teams and indeed supporters were otherwise left to find other means of entertainment.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 155,000, we round up all the latest news and updates.

 

Germany's prestige friendly with Italy later this month became the latest football fixture to bite the dust, with the majority of upcoming international matches having now been wiped out.

More major organisations have halted all footballing activities until a later date, including Qatar, Morocco and Egypt.

A small number of competitions, most notably the A-League, Russian Premier League and Mexico's Liga MX, did manage to go ahead as planned.

Indeed, NRL games also avoided the cut, as did a handful of Super Rugby matches before an indefinite ban was put in place later in the day.

Another competition to fall was Australia's one-day international series against New Zealand, which was already being played behind closed doors.

With New Zealand's government introducing strict protocols to attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the Black Caps – along with Super Rugby side Highlanders – returned home from Australia and Argentina respectively in order to beat the new restrictions, which will mean any new arrival to the country, even if they are a citizen, has to self-isolate for 14 days.

With the top-four tiers of English football being shelved until at least early April, there was plenty of focus on the National League as six games were given the green light.

There was some controversy in Argentina as River Plate's Copa Superliga clash with Atletico Tucuman was suspended after the home side refused to open their stadium.

Independiente's tie with Velez Sarsfield was played out in full, albeit behind closed doors, with the hosts claiming a 1-0 victory.

In Italy, Napoli urged their supporters to sing from their balconies in unison as Fiorentina's Patrick Cutrone and two more Sampdoria players tested positive for COVID-19.

Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy revealed a negative test result after recently self-isolating, but Carlo Ancelotti and Angelo Ogbonna questioned the Premier League's handling of the outbreak, while Jordan Pickford denied reports he is self-isolating.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, meanwhile, claimed the competition should be "void" – a suggestion Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher quickly dismissed.

The lack of football did not stop certain clubs from keeping supporters entertained, though, with LaLiga side Leganes posting live updates of a fictitious match against Real Valladolid, which they won 2-1.

Perhaps inspired by their Spanish counterparts, Southampton got Manchester City involved in an online game of noughts and crosses to help fill the void.

The downtime also gave football stars a chance to recuperate, with Sergio Ramos and Alexis Sanchez among those to post images of their extra-curricular activities.

Others, such as Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, opted to use social media to educate their followers on how to properly wash their hands, while Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi used his profile to echo the sentiments of Cristiano Ronaldo in calling for people to follow the guidance of health organisations.

As Ronaldo and Jurgen Klopp were praised by the World Health Organisation for "protecting people from coronavirus", former United States president Barack Obama hailed a host of NBA stars – including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson – for donating large amounts to help support arena staff during the league's hiatus.

UFC superstar Conor McGregor labelled the pandemic "a stupid f****** virus", but later moved to clarify his aunt did not die after contracting the disease after previously suggesting as such.

And in more positive news, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe revealed his country still plan for the 2020 Olympic Games to go ahead in Tokyo, starting in late July.

The International Olympic Committee will have the final say, but ABE is confident the Games will be staged "without problem".

Elite-level sport has been paused across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic that now has over 150,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, competitions have steadily been halted over recent weeks.

Each of Europe's top five football leagues are off, along with the Champions League, while the NBA came to a sudden stop on Wednesday.

Motorsport was hit as Formula One's Australian Grand Prix was postponed, while cricket, tennis, golf, hockey and, initially to a lesser extent, rugby all also took stock.

In a peculiar period with a vastly reduced sporting schedule, a number of stars were therefore left to make alternative plans.

Reigning NBA MVP and leading 2019-20 candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo did not last long before he commented on the boredom he was enduring in the absence of basketball.

The Greek Freak posted on Twitter late on Friday: "If this is how my life is going to be after basketball, I'm not retiring for a long time. #25yearCareer"

Antetokounmpo tagged his girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger, who replied: "You will literally drive me crazy so the longer the better."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was revelling in some family time, however, marking Friday 13 by watching a horror movie.

James then filmed his children as they performed a dance for their TikTok accounts, which their famous father promoted on his Instagram story.

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton found a different way to spend his time as the start of the new season was delayed, meanwhile.

"Gutted to not be qualifying today," he wrote on Saturday. "I decided to stick around Melbourne and go indoor rock climbing. It's a great way for me to keep focused."

Hamilton may not have been out on the track, but European Tour golfer Matthias Schwab was – virtually.

The Austrian shared a clip as he multi-tasked, playing a motorsport videogame while keeping fit on his exercise bike.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid had been due to take to the field on Friday before LaLiga went into lockdown, but Sergio Ramos entertained himself and his family.

The Madrid captain uploaded an image to his Instagram story of he and two of his children sporting matching hairstyles.

Ramos added two hashtags, reading, "I stay at home," "We stay at home".

Inter's on-loan Manchester United striker Alexis Sanchez was among the other players left to train at home, and he called his dogs in to help.

The Chile international posted a video, set to Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun, as he juggled a ball with his dogs in pursuit.

Liverpool are reportedly considering their plans for Timo Werner should they land the RB Leipzig forward this close season.

Werner, 24, has been linked with a move to the Premier League leaders after a prolific campaign with the Bundesliga side.

But if the Germany international does sign for Liverpool ahead of 2020-21, he may not be in their initial plans.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL COULD LOAN WERNER BACK TO RB LEIPZIG IF FORWARD JOINS

Liverpool could loan Werner back to RB Leipzig for next season if they get a deal done ahead of 2020-21, according to Bild.

Werner has scored 27 goals in 35 games this season, leading to interest from across Europe.

The Germany international, capped 29 times by his country, said last month he was proud to be linked to Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paulo Dybala is close to signing a five-year contract with Juventus, according to CalcioMercato, which reports only a late phone call from the attacker to his agent scuppered a move to Manchester United last year.

- Alexis Sanchez's future is unclear, but it appears it will not be at Inter. The Daily Mail reports the Serie A side have no interest in keeping the Chile international, who is on a season-long loan from Manchester United and has made just seven starts this campaign.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Willian appears set for a Chelsea exit. Le 10 Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain are interested in the attacker, while Arsenal and Manchester United are their main rivals for the Brazil international's signature.

- Arsenal are lining up a move for Manchester City defender John Stones in the close season, according to TEAMtalk.

- Tahith Chong is yet to re-sign with Manchester United despite being out of contract at the end of the season. The Sun reports the Premier League club are confident they can convince the attacker to re-sign amid interest from the likes of Inter.

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal is set to join Chile team-mate Alexis Sanchez at Inter next season, claims former Nerazzurri striker Ivan Zamorano.

Vidal was heavily linked to Antonio Conte's Inter before the January transfer window closed, but a move did not materialise.

Sanchez is on loan at Inter from Manchester United until the end of the season and while the Red Devils plan to bring him back to Old Trafford, Zamorano is optimistic two Chileans will be playing for the Serie A club in 2020-21.

"He [Sanchez] has a contract with Manchester United, but we'll see where he wants to continue playing and where he feels happy," Chilean great Zamorano, who won the 1997-98 UEFA Cup with Inter, told Radio Cooperativa.

"The most important thing is that Alexis enjoy his football, because when he was finding form, he got injured. He didn't play much at Manchester and that meant he arrived not fully fit.

"I would like Sanchez to remain in Milan, especially as in June he'll get the chance to play alongside another Chilean, who will very probably come to the club.

"Let's just say I am optimistic we'll see two Chileans at Inter next season and I have some privileged information on that score.

"We all know what Vidal means for Antonio Conte and I am sure in June the club will intensify its efforts to sign him from Barcelona. Inter fans would be very happy to have Arturo."

 

Inter returned to winning ways in Serie A as Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the second half to secure a 2-0 triumph away at lowly Udinese.

Antonio Conte's side had drawn their three previous league outings and, with leaders Juventus defeating Fiorentina 3-0 earlier on Sunday, appeared in danger of losing further ground in the title race.

However, after a scoreless first half, Lukaku's brace moved Inter back above Lazio and into second place, three points behind the reigning champions.  

January additions Christian Eriksen and Victor Moses were handed their full debuts by Conte while teenager Sebastiano Esposito filled in up front for the suspended Lautaro Martinez.

Yet the fresh faces failed to inspire, and it was Udinese who were the more threatening side in the first half. Seko Fofana fired into the side netting and Jens Stryger Larsen saw an on-target strike blocked by Ashley Young.

Lukaku had been on the periphery of proceedings before converting his first attempt of the game, his low, left-footed effort in the 64th minute going through the legs of Bram Nuytinck to beat Juan Musso.

The Belgian's second arrived from the penalty spot seven minutes later, Musso having been spectacularly up-ending Alexis Sanchez as the substitute attempted to skip beyond the advancing goalkeeper.

Kevin Lasagna twice dragged efforts wide in the closing stages as Udinese drew a blank, the hosts managing just one shot on target as they allowed Inter goalkeeper Daniele Padelli a comfortable outing while standing in for the injured Samir Handanovic.

Real Madrid have long been touted as favourites to tempt Kylian Mbappe from Paris.

Mbappe idolises Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, who has made no secret of his desire to sign the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

But should Liverpool splash the cash, Mbappe could reportedly find himself at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OPEN TO REDS

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe would be open to joining Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool, according to journalist Julien Laurens.

Mbappe has long been tipped to eventually swap PSG for LaLiga giants Real Madrid, where he is coveted by fellow Frenchman and head coach Zinedine Zidane.

However, Laurens claims Liverpool could be an option, should the English side meet PSG's demands.

 

ROUND-UP 

Manchester United want Alexis Sanchez to return to the club at the end of the season, says the Daily Star. On loan at Serie A outfit Inter following a horror spell in Manchester, the Red Devils have decided to give the Chilean forward another chance to prove himself.

- West Ham have offered €40million (£33.7m) to Cagliari for Uruguay international Nahitan Nandez, reports Tuttomercatoweb.

- With Carles Perez edging closer to Roma, Barcelona could also sell Ivan Rakitic. According to Marca, Juventus are keeping tabs on the experienced midfielder.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Roma have contacted Chelsea over veteran forward Pedro, who is out of contract at season's end.

Flamengo have agreed terms with Inter to sign Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa on a permanent basis, reports ESPN Brazil, Globoesporte and Sportitalia.

Juventus are still pondering a swap deal that would see full-back Mattia De Sciglio move to PSG in exchange for Layvin Kurzawa, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

Antonio Conte says Inter cannot use injuries as an excuse as they aim to finish the year top of Serie A.

Inter are winless in three games across all competitions, crashing out of the Champions League and being leapfrogged by champions Juventus in the table.

Alexis Sanchez, Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Roberto Gagliardini, Antonio Candreva and Kwadwo Asamoah are all expected to miss Saturday's home game against Genoa.

Conte indicated he will give players every chance to recover in time for the match but he is not going to gamble on players' fitness ahead of the mid-season break.

"There is still a [training] session to go. We will not take risks," he told reporters on Friday. "We have Brozo [Marcelo Brozovic] and Lautaro [Martinez] suspended too.

"We are short on players but will give our all. We will not use this as an excuse. We will give everything we have, I am sure. The fans will play their part too against Genoa.

"I was worried about the situation in the past. We have had lots of players out and it has not been easy. I have had to always rely on the same players. I could not rotate my squad. But let us get to the break and then we will see."

Inter being without on-loan forward Sanchez has been particularly key, the Chile international having been out of action for two months.

"The injury was a real blow to Sanchez and for us," Conte added. "In this time, I have always had to rely on Lautaro and [Romelu] Lukaku.

"They have always been available and have done a good job. [Sebastiano] Esposito has also grown as a player too. But Sanchez cannot wait to get playing again.

"He is very competitive, he is chomping at the bit. We will need to respect the recovery time. The medical staff will keep us posted. I am certain he will be back soon and he will help us."

Asked to reflect on his time at the club so far going into the break, Conte said: "The more time goes by, the more I am part of the club. We have been working hard and giving our all.

"There have been challenges and difficulties along the way so far, but I knew it would not be easy and that this was the start of the process.

"We are all working hard to take this club far and to the top again. We need to leave our mark, as I have often said in the past.

"That does not necessarily mean trophies. It means laying solid foundations as a club. It means instilling the right work ethic and culture."

Alexis Sanchez's recovery from ankle surgery is on track and the Inter forward could return ahead of schedule. 

Sanchez suffered a dislocated ankle and tendon damage while playing for Chile against Colombia in October.

The need to have an operation meant three months on the sidelines, curtailing the early stages of his loan stay at San Siro from Manchester United.

Inter's head of medical services Piero Volpi told La Cuarta he is optimistic about Sanchez's speed of recovery, with the 30-year-old aiming to resume work with a ball in the near future.

"It is a delicate injury, but the recovery is going very well, the deadlines are being met," he said.

"Mid-January [is the return date] but we'll see. Alexis could even come back a little earlier if all goes well.

"He has not yet done work with the ball, but we hope that in the next few days we will have news about it. Everything is going well."

Sanchez scored on his only Serie A start for Inter, a 3-1 win at Sampdoria where he was later sent off, and has made four appearances overall for Antonio Conte's side.

Inter's first game of 2020 is away to Napoli in the league on January 5, while they host Atalanta a week later.

Inter are unlikely to seek a January replacement for injured loanee Alexis Sanchez, according to chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.

The Chile forward underwent surgery in midweek after his injuring his left ankle on international duty.

Sanchez, 30, could be out for up to three months but Marotta believes Antonio Conte's squad is deep enough to handle his absence.

Inter did not miss the Manchester United misfit in Sunday's thrilling 4-3 victory over Sassuolo, secured courtesy of braces from Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

"The January market is available to the club but the strongest players aren't available for moves in that window," Marotta told DAZN.

"We'll be alert to examine any potential opportunities. We have a competitive squad. Obviously we'd be happier without the Sanchez injury but we're optimistic.

"When Alexis comes back the attacking set-up will remain unchanged."

Lukaku and Martinez starred as Inter ran riot for over 70 minutes at Mapei Stadium.

The visitors were three goals clear and cruising before Filip Djuricic poked in Sassuolo's second goal in the 74th minute.

Fellow substitute Jeremie Boga reduced the margin back to one and the Nerazzurri had to survive a nervy finish to secure their seventh win in eight Serie A matches.

Antonio Conte battled a fever before the game and left it to his assistant, Cristian Stellini, to explain the "blackout" that put three points in jeopardy.

"We lost the ball twice and they caught us by surprise when breaking quickly," he said.

"It was too easy for them to score. We've still got a long way to go and working on situations like this is the most important thing for us."

Stellini added: "Antonio is slightly worn out, he had a bit of a fever before the match. He gave his all so he could lead the team, as he always does over the course of the 90 minutes.

"Thankfully he wasn't kept away from the bench but he's feeling the effects again now."

Stellini said Stefano Sensi, who missed the match with a thigh injury, would be assessed on Monday ahead of the Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund.

Inter forward Alexis Sanchez has undergone successful surgery on his injured left ankle, the Serie A club have confirmed.

Sanchez was substituted late in Chile's friendly win over Colombia on Saturday, with a dislocated joint causing damage to his peroneus longus tendon.

The 30-year-old travelled to Barcelona on Wednesday for a consultation with professor Ramon Cugat and it was decided the issue should be operated on.

A statement on Inter's official website read: "The visit [with Cugat] confirmed the diagnosis of the Inter medical staff and the decision was made to proceed with surgery on the left ankle.

"The operation was performed in the afternoon on the peroneus longus tendon and it went exactly as planned."

Sanchez, who joined Inter on a season-long loan from Manchester United in August, is expected to miss three months of action.

The ex-Arsenal star has made four appearances for Antonio Conte's side this term, scoring one goal in Serie A, though he was sent off later in the same match against Sampdoria.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte urged his players to take the intensity of their performances in Serie A into crunch games with Barcelona and Juventus.

Conte's side played virtually half of their 3-1 win over Sampdoria on Saturday with 10 men as they maintained their 100 per cent winning run.

Inter secured victory thanks to goals from Stefano Sensi, Alexis Sanchez and Roberto Gagliardini, while Jakub Jankto netted for Sampdoria.

Sanchez, on loan from Manchester United, had a particularly eventful game as he scored his first Inter goal and was then sent off a minute into the second half for a second bookable offence.

Inter are two points clear of Juventus at the top of Serie A after six straight victories and Conte wants to use that as a springboard as they head to Camp Nou before hosting the Italian champions at the weekend.

"We need to recover our energy to make an intense match so we can make it difficult for Barca," said Conte. "I do not have to tell you the opposition teams we are playing.

"If you want to put Barcelona in difficulty, you have to play an intense game but at the same time you have to be good at limiting and not letting them play, otherwise it becomes a problem.

"You also have to be good at dribbling and building. This beginning in the league is the result of so much work and a lot of willingness on the part of the boys."

The victory saw Conte equal Roberto Mancini's best start to a season, although he still needs two more wins to overtake legendary Inter head coach Helenio Herrera's record of seven in the 1966-67 season.

 

Alexis Sanchez scored before being sent off in a dramatic first Inter start as his side battled to a 3-1 away win over Sampdoria.

Inter made it six victories from six in Serie A, ensuring they kept the two-point lead over Juventus at the top of the table that they held at the start of Saturday.

Two goals in the space of 128 first-half seconds from Stefano Sensi and Sanchez had Antonio Conte's men on course for a dominant victory in response to Juve's earlier win over SPAL.

Sanchez received a second yellow for diving early in the second half and there was brief alarm for 10-man Inter when that was followed by a strike from Samp's Jakub Jankto, but Roberto Gagliardini wrapped up the points.

After a scrappy opening 20 minutes, Inter scored two goals in rapid succession.

First, in-form Sensi fired in an effort from 30 yards which struck Sanchez on the back and deflected past Emil Audero in the Sampdoria goal.

Then, on Inter's next attack, another Sensi strike that was hit less cleanly was latched on to by an opportunistic Sanchez, who knew more about this one as he pounced to slot in from inside the six-yard box.

Antonio Candreva's goal from a Sanchez chipped pass was ruled out for offside before Lautaro Martinez fired wide from one good chance and struck another straight at the keeper.

Audero denied Sensi as Inter ended the first half in complete control but the match took a dramatic twist 54 seconds after the restart. When a Martinez shot was saved, Sanchez went down under pressure from Julian Chabot, who appeared to back out of the challenge.

That immediately earned Sanchez a second booking – his first having come just before the break for a foul on Albin Ekdal.

Samp's first shot on target got them back into the match, Jankto collecting a pass from Karol Linetty before turning and finding the bottom corner with an angled left-footed strike – his first league goal for the club.

But just after the hour mark – six minutes after Jankto's strike - weak goalkeeping from Audero meant Marcelo Brozovic's over-hit pass was eventually parried into the path of Gagliardini to tap in.
 

What does it mean? Inter poised for pivotal week

Romelu Lukaku, Danilo D'Ambrosio and Nicolo Barella – who all came on after Jankto's goal - were rested by Conte along with Diego Godin ahead of a crucial week that sees Inter take on Barcelona and Juve in their two main competitions.

Sanchez's dramatic debut was the interesting talking point here, but the bigger picture is Inter's magnificent start domestically and another confident performance in a game they dominated despite playing half of it with 10 men.

Samp are bottom as the pressure grows on boss Eusebio Di Francesco.

Supreme Sensi shines again

Sensi already looks like one of the signings of the season. He continued his fine form here and ended with a stat line that read one goal, one assist and two key passes.

The midfielder also had another shot well saved just before the break and Conte took no risks with the match safe at 3-1 with 25 minutes to go, bringing Sensi off to keep him fresh for the key week ahead.

Martinez needs goals to keep starting spot

Martinez has impressed with his all-round play this season, but with Lukaku and Sanchez among Inter's attacking options he will want to improve his goalscoring rate to remain a prominent part of Conte's plans.

He had three excellent chances in this game but could not covert any of them, Audero denying him twice while another effort was fired wide. Martinez is undoubtedly an extremely promising player, but seven Serie A goals in 33 games is a record that needs to get better.

What's next?

It is a huge week for Inter, who are at Camp Nou on Wednesday for Champions League business before they meet Juve in the Derby d'Italia at San Siro on October 6.

Samp are in desperate need of points when they travel to Hellas Verona next Saturday.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.