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Inter consolidated their position in second with a 3-1 victory over Udinese on Sunday that wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline might suggest.
Perhaps even more important than a hard-fought three points, though, was a return to form for striker Romelu Lukaku, who has endured a torrid time since his return to the club for a second loan spell.
Injury has meant that the Belgian has managed just six starts this season, with veteran Edin Džeko having to step into the role as main striker.
Lukaku converted his penalty against Udinese— at the second time of asking after having to retake the spot-kick — with a look of the striker that tucked away 24 goals in 2020/21, and that really couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nerazzurri.
“He’s improving every day, match after match and training session after training session,” Inter boss Simone Inzaghi told reporters after the win over Udinese.
“We have great faith in him.”
While catching league leaders Napoli looks to be an almost impossible feat, Inter face Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at San Siro on Wednesday night.
Inter have not won a two-legged Champions League tie since 2010/11.
It is a huge week for the club and Lukaku’s return to goalscoring form should take some of the heat off of Džeko, with the Bosnian the only player to have netted more than one goal in the group stage.
The knockout rounds will provide a different test altogether, and it’s here where Lukaku can repay that faith shown in him.