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Dynamic duo Martinez, Thuram leading Inter’s Champions League charge

MILAN (AFP) – Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram have rapidly struck up a formidable attacking partnership which will lead Inter Milan into today’s Champions League Group D clash with Salzburg.

With 16 goals already scored between them so far this season, Inter’s dynamic striking duo have made fans forget former idol and Martinez’s one-time strike partner Romelu Lukaku.

The pair have also made last season’s losing finalists one of the Serie A title favourites after an uncertain summer in which they were forced to let go key players in attack and defence.

Both were on target in Saturday’s 3-0 stroll at Torino which gave Inter the temporary lead in Italy’s top flight and took Martinez’s all-competitions tally to 12 in 11 matches.

Since the departures of Edin Dzeko and Lukaku in the summer Martinez has taken on the mantle of attacking focal point for Inter who are also the highest scorers in Serie A with 24 goals.

Argentina striker Martinez is already five goals ahead of Victor Osimhen, his nearest rival at the top of Italy’s scoring charts, and at his current rate of 11 strikes in nine league matches he would smash the record single-season haul of 36 set by Gonzalo Higuain in 2016.

Inter’s Lautaro Martinez and Torino’s Tameze vie for the ball. PHOTO: AP

“He’s a great player, one of the best strikers in the world. Playing with him makes everything easier,” said Thuram after last month’s 5-1 hammering of AC Milan, in which the France forward scored with a sumptuous strike.

Martinez stepping up in such a decisive fashion has made Thuram’s return to the country of his birth from Borussia Moenchengladbach that much simpler.

The 26-year-old is the son of French World Cup-winning icon Lilian Thuram but he was born in Parma and has a clear affinity for Italy, comfortable speaking the language despite leaving the country while still a child to begin his youth career in France.

It was at Parma where his father played for five seasons, winning the UEFA Cup and Italian Cup in 1999 as part of a star-studded outfit which also featured Azzurri icons Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon.

Cannavaro said on Wednesday that Thuram reminded him of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his early days at Juventus and after picking Inter over AC Milan he has made an instant impact.

Thuram has only scored four times in all competitions in his first season as an out-and-out striker but five assists – including three for Martinez – have made him a key part of Serie A’s top-scoring team.

“When he first came here I thought he might need some time to get used to things, but pretty much from the first training session I could tell he was going to come along quickly,” said Inzaghi on Saturday.

The pair have also been crucial to Inter being level on four points with Group D leaders Real Sociedad, scoring Inter’s only goals in their first two matches.

Martinez made sure Inter scraped a draw in their opener at Sociedad where they were dominated for much of the match.

And it was Thuram who secured his team’s 1-0 win over Benfica earlier this month with a smart first-time strike from Denzel Dumfries’ low cross, a similar finish to the one which opened the scoring on Saturday.

With Salzburg trailing Inter by a point and Sociedad at bottom side Benfica, today’s clash is a great chance to create a cushion in the group which makes another assault on the knockout stages more likely.

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