REUTERS: Inter Milan's top-of-the-table clash with Lazio on Sunday represents a meeting of two outsiders in this year’s Serie A title race, according to Inter head coach Antonio Conte.
The Nerazzurri currently top the standings on 54 points, leading Juventus on goal difference and third-placed Lazio by one point.
The Rome side, who are on a club record 18-match unbeaten run, host Inter at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening in what has been billed as a decisive date for this season’s Scudetto race.
But Conte insisted that both sides should be seen as underdogs in their bid to end Juve's eight-year stranglehold on the Serie A trophy.
"This is certainly a difficult game," the coach told a media conference.
"Lazio are a consolidated reality in Italian football, they won the Coppa Italia last season and the Italian Supercup this season.
"They reinforced the squad, kept their strongest players and (Lazio coach) Simone Inzaghi is doing an excellent job.
"I would call it a game between two outsiders for the league title. That is a perfect definition."
Inter fell to a 1-0 defeat at home to Napoli in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg on Wednesday, prompting calls for Conte to hand January signing Christian Eriksen a starting spot this weekend.
The Denmark midfielder, who joined the Italian club from Tottenham Hotspur for a reported 20 million euros last month, has been selected from the start in just one of his four appearances for Inter so far, a 2-0 win over Udinese on Feb 2.
But Conte stood by his decision to bide his time with the playmaker.
"Christian is working well. He's understanding more and more what we want from him," said the coach.
"I've never thrown a new signing straight into the team before him. In Udine, people were rightly saying that he struggled a bit, because he wasn't settled into the team.
"I was forced to pick him. But now we have worked together more. We will see him from the start when I feel it is opportune to do so."