At long last, Serie A is back. January 4 sees the Italian top flight play its traditional New Year fixture, with all sides in action through the course of the day.
Here’s what to expect.
Juve still without Vlahović
Juventus can count on the return of young star Federico Chiesa after the break, but there’s a concern for striker Dušan Vlahović. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, his return date continues to slide as he battles with a groin injury sustained during the World Cup.
Paul Pogba is still on the sidelines, and angered Juventus supporters by posting pictures on social media of a skiing holiday during his recovery period, while both Ángel Di María and Leandro Paredes have returned late from international duty after their World Cup win with Argentina.
That said, the Bianconeri should have enough firepower to defeat Serie A newcomers Cremonese in their first game back, especially with Arkadiusz Milik and the in-form Moise Kean more than capable of deputizing.
Milan must capitalize on Napoli’s tough fixture
Reigning champions Milan travel to Salernitana as they hope to put a dent in the current eight-point gap between them and Napoli at the top. The home side has captured the signature of an experienced goalkeeper in Mexican World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa, but anything less than a win for the Rossoneri will be seen as a big opportunity missed as Napoli face Inter later in the day.
Stefano Pioli can finally field his preferred back four as Davide Calabria returns from injury – although first-choice goalkeeper Mike Maignan remains in the treatment room – and the boss is confident that they can retain their Scudetto this season.
“We must think that we can still win the title, absolutely,” revealed Pioli in an interview with SportMediaset. “Right now, we should only think about earning as many points as possible. Last year we needed 86, this season it could be more.
“There are still 69 available, it’s a lot and we must believe we can make it.”
Inzaghi’s showdown with Spalletti
Inter’s match with Napoli is a must-watch from the opening round of Serie A fixtures following the World Cup break, with the Nerazzurri showing good form in their warm-up friendlies.
Edin Džeko was the difference-maker in a 1-0 win over Sassuolo in their final match of 2022, and with Romelu Lukaku also back from injury, Inter’s fans will surely be feeling confident that they can put a run together in the second half of the campaign.
“Our aims for 2023 are that we want to win something,” boss Simone Inzaghi told Sky Italia. “It’s wonderful to play and enjoy our football, but ultimately that is the objective.”
Meanwhile, Napoli not only sits top of the league in terms of points but over the first 15 games of the season have kept the ball more than any other Serie A side with an average of 60% possession, can boast the best passing accuracy with 86.8%, have scored the most goals (37) and have fired the most shots towards goal with 18.1 on average per game.
Their results and attacking displays have made them one of the most dominant sides across Europe in the first part of the season, but the question is whether they can manage to keep the momentum throughout what has been an unprecedented break in play this winter.
Luciano Spalletti gifted each one of his players a traditional Neapolitan lucky charm during his team’s Christmas dinner, the boss is undoubtedly aware that every title-winning side needs that little bit of good fortune in order to cross the finish line in first place.
Roma awaits their Argentine hero
Roma fans can breathe a little easier now that reports suggest boss José Mourinho has turned down the chance to coach the Portugal national team.
Yet there’s still plenty of work to be done in the capital, as the Giallorossi have earned just 27 points from their opening 15 matches and currently sit in seventh place in the table.
They should be able to count on a fit again Paulo Dybala, who played 17 minutes for Argentina in their run to a World Cup win, a huge boost for Mourinho as he looks to add goals to a mediocre tally of 18 so far this season.
Dybala has netted five times and made two assists for his teammates in eight starts for Roma so far, while the side could also be boosted by a new signing in midfield during the January transfer window.
Rumors suggest that Davide Frattesi could make the move to the capital from Sassuolo, although Neroverdi CEO Giovanni Carnevali was coy when asked about the potential deal.
We have an excellent relationship with the Giallorossi, but we also have requests from the Premier League,” the chief told Sky Italia.
Chloe Beresford is an experienced Serie A expert, with previous bylines at Forbes, The Guardian, AS Roma and many more. She has appeared on the radio at Sirius XFM and on the BBC Euro Leagues podcast. Watching live games in Italy and experiencing all the country has to offer are her biggest passions.