Conte has 'rough diamonds' Lukaku, Lautaro against Atalanta free scoring
Milan, January 10 (AFP) Antonio Conte will feature the strike duo of Inter Milan Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez in Saturday's Serie A clash against Atalanta to score ahead of Juventus champions traveling to Rome.
Both the eight-time holder Juventus and Inter Milan lead the Italian league table with 45 points after 18 games, with Conte side ahead in the goal difference.
I always said that Romelu was a diamond in the rough that needed to be polished. Lautaro Martínez is the same, Conte said.
Atalanta, which ranks fifth and fifth, has had the most powerful attacks so far this season in Serie A, setting the stage for a possible goal festival in San Siro.
Atalanta, by Gian Piero Gasperini, is 11 points behind the leaders, but comes from consecutive league wins with ten goals scored, a 5-0 score against AC Milan and Parma.
Gasperini trained Inter for five games without victories before being fired in 2011. But he has transformed the Bergamo team that finished third last season.
They have scored 48 goals so far this season and another on Saturday would see them become the most prolific team in Serie A in the last 60 years.
They will be eager to impress at San Siro, where they will receive Valencia in their last 16 Champions League matches on February 19.
Inter have failed to qualify for the European qualifying rounds and are aiming at their first Serie A title since 2010.
Conte believes that Lukaku and Martinez, who scored in the 3-1 victory last weekend over Napoli, are only beginning to hit.
The couple has represented 23 of the 39 goals of Inter Serie A and 30 in all competitions.
Lukaku is the second top scorer in Serie A, behind the Ciro Immobile of Lazio. His double against Napoli brought his account for the season to 14, beating the 12 he scored in his last season with Manchester United.
There will be great expectations before the game. Both teams have excellent strikers, said Atalanta side Robin Gosens.
Lukaku is very difficult to score, Martínez moves a lot. They are doing extraordinary things, it will be a difficult challenge.
But we play in San Siro in the Champions League, so we are used to that field. The Gasperini team is one point behind Rome, which occupies the final place of the Champions League, and welcomes Juventus on Sunday.
The champions beat Cagliari 4-0 last time with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick.
Rome coach Paulo Fonseca insisted that his team could recover from the 2-0 loss at home against Torino last weekend.
The team is a little sad after the game against Torino, but we are focused on the game against Juventus and we have to be optimistic, said the Portuguese coach.
The rivals of the city, Lazio, are now positioned among the challengers of the title, three points behind the leaders in third place, before harboring Napoli in trouble.
The Simone Inzaghi team can boost their winning streak in the league against Napoli with eight positions that is 11 points away from the Champions League place.
Our position in the league does not reflect the value of the team, said Napoli midfielder Allan.
One to watch
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 38, could have his first start by fighting AC Milan against Cagliari after his replacement role in his goalless draw against Sampdoria.
I see Ibrahimovic as an older brother, said Portugal's under-21 forward Leao.
He is a great player and I want to learn everything I can with him by my side. Any team with Ibrahimovic has a better chance of success.
The old European giants are in 12th place in the table, 23 points behind the leaders. But Cagliari has won only one of his last 31 Serie A games against AC Milan.
13 - AC Milan points in the Champions League 9 - Lazio league winning streak
1 - Napoli wins of their last ten Fixtures matches (all times GMT)
Saturday: Cagliari v AC Milan (1400), Lazio v Napoli (1700), Inter Milan v Atalanta (1945)
Sunday: Udinese v Sassuolo (1130), Fiorentina v SPAL, Sampdoria v Brescia, Torino v Bologna (all 1400), Verona v Genoa (1700), AS Roma v Juventus (1945) Monday: Parma v Lecce (1945) (AFP) APA APA