sport news Serie A resumes: Napoli strong favourites to win title ahead of AC Milan, ... trends now
Serie A is finally back! There has been no top-flight action in Italy since November 13, with a lengthy break for the World Cup and the festive period.
But luckily for those with Calcio withdrawal symptoms, the action returns in one massive dollop this Wednesday with a full programme of 10 Serie A games spread neatly throughout the day.
Ahead of its return, ALVISE CAGNAZZO provides an update on the state of play at all 20 clubs.
Napoli are on course for their first Serie A title since 1990 as the season resumes this week
UK time, all matches shown live on BT Sport 1 and 2
Salernitana vs AC Milan (11.30am)
Sassuolo vs Sampdoria (11.30am)
Spezia vs Sampdoria (1.30pm)
Torino vs Hellas Verona (1.30pm)
Lecce vs Lazio (3.30pm)
Roma vs Bologna (3.30pm)
Cremonese vs Juventus (5.30pm)
Fiorentina vs Monza (5.30pm)
Inter Milan vs Napoli (7.30pm)
Udinese vs Napoli (7.30pm)
ATALANTA - ARE THESE THE FINAL MONTHS FOR GASPERINI IN BERGAMO?
Atalanta restart with a Gian Piero Gasperini problem. The manager born in Gruliasco, near Turin, is now a dean of Serie A coaches but these could be his last months on the club's benches.
Italian teams no longer seem to be in line with the coach's philosophy despite the excellent results achieved in Serie A in recent years.
Gasperini will hope to have Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel 100 per cent recovered. Both didn't participate at the World Cup but can be like new signings for Atalanta.
Holland international Teun Koopmeiners in action for Atalanta during a friendly with Real Betis
The four Atalanta players who did go to the World Cup played 920 minutes - without scoring a goal - but nonetheless those returning can help to increase the team's Serie A ambitions.
Mario Pasalic played 268 minutes and finished third with Croatia and is a top player. Denmark's Joakim Maehle played 250 minutes and showed great personality, as did the Dutchman Marten De Roon.
Teun Koopmeiners was among the most active of the 'Oranje' national team with 218 minutes and one assist.
The latter is the player who had an upgrade on his value and could be sold in the summer market.
BOLOGNA - PLAYING IN MEMORY OF SINISA MIHAJLOVIC
Bologna's two players were on the field for just 14 minutes at the World Cup, so freshness shouldn't be an issue for coach Thiago Motta.
The death of Sinisa Mihajlovic has created a deep melancholy in the heart of the club and the fans and the whole team will try to offer 100 per cent of their courage to honour their former manager's memory.
Bologna will be motivated by the memory of former coach Mihajlovic, who died last month
The market could offer opportunities for Bologna to exploit but for the moment they will be hoping to hold on to Marko Arnautovic.
The Austrian striker is the jewel of the team and the future success of the club will depend on his physical condition.
CREMONESE - SEARCHING FOR THE MIRACLE
Cremona represents the Cinderella of Italian football and obtaining survival after a historic promotion to Serie A would be a minor miracle.
Johan Vasquez was called up by Mexico but didn't play a single minute at the World Cup and the whole team will look to take advantage of great athletic preparation.
Cremonese resume the season third bottom in the table and with six points to make up
The quality of the team, with the exception of Cyriel Dessers, is low and their hopes of beating Juventus in their first game back are close to zero.
Coach Giovanni Alvini is aware of the team difficulties but the great passion of the fans can be the 12th man for the 'Grigiorossi' [grey and reds], a team for whom Gianluca Vialli played at the beginning of his career.
EMPOLI - 'CICCIO' CAPUTO TO GET GOALS OF SALVATION
Empoli's first signing is a top player in Serie A but who struggled at Sampdoria. Francesco 'Ciccio' Caputo is back in Tuscany to strengthen the team's attack, which was disappointing in the first 90 days of Serie A.
The ex-Sampdoria striker is already available to coach Paolo Zanetti and there is an obligation to make the loan permanent in case of survival.
Empoli took on Premier League side Wolves during a friendly to tune up for the restart
The best clubs in Serie A like the look of Guglielmo Vicario, Tommaso Baldanzi and Fabiano Parisi but the intention is to keep the top players until June.
That's despite Juventus sniffing around the full-back Parisi and the goalkeeper Vicario. Both have been excellent in Serie A this season.
FIORENTINA - MOROCCO WORLD CUP STAR AMRABAT WILL MAKE THEM RICH!
President Rocco Commisso is embracing Fiorentina's World Cup stars, knowing he has so much gold in his hands.
Serbia's Nikola Milenkovic and especially Morocco's Sofyan Amrabat played especially well in Qatar.
The Morocco midfielder played 584 minutes as his team ultimately finished in fourth place, having eliminated Spain and Portugal in the knockout rounds. This significantly increased his market value.
Morocco's Sofyan Amrabat enjoyed an excellent World Cup and now returns to Fiorentina
Milenkovic also saw his value rise but, unlike Amrabat, he is likely to be in Florence for a few years yet.
Amrabat is now regarded as one of the top five best-performing midfielders in Europe and has caught the attention of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
Amrabat draws comparisons with Gattuso with his aerobic and physical abilities and will be the ideal player to fire Fiorentina into Europe at the end of the season.
HELLAS VERONA - NOTHING CHANGES
The Venetian team, who are bottom of the table, will have to recover energy and courage to get the points they need to survive as soon as possible.
Their four World Cup players - Ajdin Hrustic (Australia), Martin Hongla (Cameroon), Darko Lazovic (Serbia) and Ivan Ilic (Serbia) - got through a mere 207 minutes.
Josh Doig of Hellas Verona celebrates one of their goals against Sampdoria earlier this season
INTER MILAN - MARTINEZ ENTHUSIASM
The playing time of the Inter men involved in the World Cup was high - but lower than that of Juventus. The six called up completed 1,399 minutes in total.
Inter continues it's own record - since 1982, one of their players has always been on the pitch in the last act of the World Cup.
Argentina's Lautaro Martinez became the latest Inter plater to life the World Cup and he now wishes to convert that momentum into Serie A form, which has excited the fans.
Romelu Lukaku is still recovering from his latest injury setback but isn't too far off fitness
Simone Inzaghi will immediately have to solve the puzzle to allow the team to be a protagonist from the first game.
Romelu Lukaku is still recovering and during an interview with Sky Sport, he declared that he before he played in Belgium's last match of the World Cup against Croatia, he'd only had two full work-outs in four months due to a broken flexor.
This was the first truly major, unexplained injury he sustained in his 12-year career. A nagging muscle injury now seems to finally be over.
Edin Dzeko represents the most useful player for them right now because he can play with Lukaku or in an attacking trident.
JUVENTUS - IT'S POGBACK
Juve were the most squeezed team in the whole of the World Cup with a grand total of 2,332 minutes. Angel Di Maria was happy, though, after he scored in the final and lifted the trophy.
For the first game back against Cremonese, they will not be 100 per cent in defence because of the many minutes played by Alex Sandro and Danilo, not to mention the call-up for Bremer, all for Brazil.
But the return to Serie A action coincides with the return to full fitness of Federico Chiesa and the probable return of Paul Pogba, who is now at 60 per cent.
Paul Pogba is now back to about 60 per cent fitness as he looked to return to Juventus action
2023 should see Juventus at least welcome back those players who spent the first three months of the Serie A campaign in the infirmary - Juan Cuadrado, Di Maria, Leandro Paredes, Dusan Vlahovic and Pogba.
The Juventus player in best form at the moment is Adrien Rabiot but with his contract expiring in June there is a major obstacle.
The World Cup in Qatar has definitively consecrated the 27-year-old French midfielder, who now asks for about 10 million Euros per year for four years to renew his contract.
LAZIO - SARRIBALL IN LOVE
Lazio is the top club with the fewest unexpected events during the World Cup - 369 total minutes and one goal from their two players.
They are preparing to relaunch the star of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Maurizio Sarri took advantage of the winter break to train his players in his classic methods of resistance and speed, increasing the number of tactical schemes to execute.
If their players have memorised these required movements, they can become the most difficult team to face in the second half of Serie A.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (centre) is the centre of attention as usual for Lazio
Ivan Provedel is the moder goalkeeper that Sarri has relaunched after two excellent years spent at Spezia and now 2023 could be the year of his ascension to the Italy national