Eriksen could be final piece of Inter’s midfield puzzle

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              Inter Milan's Christian Eriksen controls the ball during an Italian Cup quarter finals soccer match between Inter Milan and Fiorentina at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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MILAN (AP) — Christian Eriksen could be the man to end Juventus’ eight-year stranglehold on the Serie A title.

The Denmark playmaker joined Inter Milan from Tottenham this week and coach Antonio Conte will be hoping he is the final piece of his midfield puzzle.

There were positive signs when the 27-year-old Eriksen made his Inter debut on Wednesday, coming on for the final 24 minutes of Inter’s 2-1 victory over Fiorentina in the Italian Cup quarterfinals.

Inter scored the winner seconds after Eriksen was brought on. Although he didn’t have much to do with the goal, Eriksen did set up another goal that was disallowed and had a shot on target in a solid debut.

Conte has often complained about his lack of depth in midfield and that was again evident when he was forced to rush Eriksen’s debut rather than waiting for this weekend’s match against Udinese.

“Eriksen trained with us only yesterday. Today I catapulted him onto the field, I did something that I’ve never done before. I’ve never used players that have just arrived,” Conte said. “We rushed Eriksen, who must grasp our style of play but has already demonstrated his characteristics. He’s an adaptable and intelligent player, always finding himself in the right positions. Obviously, he’ll raise our game in terms of experience and quality.”

Wednesday’s victory came as a timely boost after three straight Serie A draws. Inter is only three points behind Juventus but also only two points above third-place Lazio, which has a match in hand.

However, Inter has been busy in the January transfer window.

Victor Moses also made his Inter debut in the Italian Cup, while Ashley Young made his second appearance. Conte also said Marcelo Brozović will be back from injury this weekend in a midfield that is shaping up to be an extra weapon to challenge Juventus.

“(Eriksen) is a player of top international standards,” Inter midfielder Antonio Candreva said. “We’re talking about one of the best midfielders in Europe … he can give us a really great hand from here until the end of the season, from here into the future.

“Great players have come in this month and they can give a hand to a great group, which has done great things until now.”

Brozović is the engine of that midfield, while Nicolò Barella adds creativity with his pace and energy and goals — another of which he scored on Wednesday.

Eriksen brings that extra bit of quality. And having one of the top playmakers in Europe behind one of the best forward partnerships — Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez — can only be dangerous for the rest of Serie A.

“He’s a star. An important player for us,” Barella said. “He will help us lift up our level even more. He’ll make this stadium explode.”