Christian Eriksen and Samir Handanovic are proving themselves more important to Inter’s title chances than most expected, according to one leading Italian journalist.

Handanovic produced three key saves at the start of the second half during yesterday’s derby win over AC Milan, earning him rave reviews in Monday’s papers.

Eriksen also impressed after Antonio Conte gave him another start in midfield, earning the Dane praise in Paolo Condo’s latest column for La Repubblica.

“Eriksen is Conte’s joker in the title race,” Condo explained.

“Having been forced by Suning’s problems to make do with what he already had in the squad, he’s performed a U-turn and revitalised Inter’s most technically gifted player.

“Eriksen meanwhile has responded to his final call with the Nerazzurri by finally showing an involved attitude.

“With Ivan Perisic also producing his best performance of the season, Conte has extended his list of dependable players to 15 or 16, the ideal number when you’re only playing once a week.”

Turning his attention to Handanovic, Condo argued the Slovenian was regaining his reputation as one of Serie A’s best keepers after a poor first half of the season.

“For a long time he was an excellent goalkeeper in a mediocre Inter team,” he recalled.

“The club’s progressive revival coincided with his first signs of ageing; not so much the mistakes, which happen at all ages, but with a few shots he decided a bit prematurely that he had no chance of reaching.

“Nothing too tragic, but the feeling was that at 36 he had lost his status as one of Inter’s strengths and become a weakness for their Scudetto bid.

“Handanovic responded to those taunts yesterday with three saves in a key moment of the match, a match which could well end up being decisive in the race for the Scudetto.”

Inter have created breathing space between themselves and AC Milan after their dominant display in the Derby della Madonnina, with many identifying them today as the firm favourites to win the title.

Condo appeared to agree with that view, adding: “Inter have stretched their gap decisively with their fourth victory in a big match during the last two months.

“Now they are four points ahead of AC Milan, at least five clear of Juventus and nine in front of Roma.”

Inter return to league action on Sunday when Conte’s side will welcome in-form Genoa to San Siro.