Inter’s LuLa attack back to its best for CL derby vs Milan

MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan’s LuLa attack appears back to its best ahead of the Champions League semifinal showdown against city rival AC Milan.

The partnership of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez earned the LuLa nickname during the former’s first spell at the club, when their goals drove Inter to the Serie A title in 2021.

While Martínez has continued to spearhead the attack since then, Lukaku had struggled with injury and poor form after returning on loan from Chelsea in the offseason.

However, Lukaku has now struck three goals in as many Serie A games — doubling his tally for the season. He has also contributed further with three assists in those matches.

“Romelu is very important for us and we brought him in for this, for the goals he’s scoring,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said Tuesday.

“He had an injury that kept him out for nearly four months, but now he’s good, he’s scoring and he’s helping us. He’s an extra weapon for us.”

Lukaku is hitting top form at the right time for Inter, which is bidding to reach the final of European soccer’s most prestigious club competition for the first time since it won an unprecedented treble of the league, Italian Cup and Champions League under José Mourinho in 2010.

And excitement is ramping up in the city ahead of what has been dubbed the “Euroderby.” The first leg takes place on Wednesday, with the return match the following Tuesday.

“This is ‘the’ derby, not ‘a’ derby,” Inzaghi said. “We’re not hiding the importance this match has for us, for the fans, for the club.”

Lukaku’s return to form has coincided with a positive streak for Inter after a miserable run that piled the pressure on Inzaghi.

Inter has won its last five matches in all competitions, scoring 15 goals and conceding just one. Prior to that run, Inter had won just one of its previous nine games in all competitions.

“We had a period in which our strikers weren’t scoring,” Inzaghi said. “But I was calm then and I am now because we always had the chances.”

Inter is also bidding for a treble as it plays Fiorentina in the Italian Cup final on May 24. The Nerazzurri beat Milan to lift the Italian Super Cup in January.

While Inzaghi has almost a fully fit squad to choose from, Milan coach Stefano Pioli could be missing a key player.

Rafael Leão limped off in the 11th minute of Saturday’s 2-0 win against Lazio in Serie A, shortly after pulling up and clutching the top of his right thigh.

The forward returned to training on Tuesday but worked separately from his teammates. Pioli will wait until the last minute to make a decision.

“Tomorrow he will try to push himself to the maximum to understand if he can take part in the match,” Pioli said.

“If I call him up, it will be because he’s fit to play. If the tests are fine he could even start.”

The Milan teams also met in the Champions League semifinals in 2003, with the Rossoneri winning on away goals and going on to beat Juventus in the final.

Milan won the last of its seven titles in 2007.


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