Serie A Matchday 22: Relentless Inter face tough test at Atalanta
Supercoppa Italiana winners Inter Milan return to league action on Sunday night when they make the trip to fourth-placed Atalanta.
Any slip-up could open the door for title rivals AC Milan, who host struggling Spezia on Monday.
Elsewhere, Juventus can continue their recent revival with a win against Udinese, while Cagliari will aim to climb out of the relegation zone with victory at stuttering Roma.
Game of the week: Atalanta vs Inter Milan (Sunday, 7.45pm)
Inter make the short trip to Bergamo chasing a ninth-straight league win.
The hosts will be determined to make amends for a 4-1 defeat to Roma in their previous Serie A home match.
Buoyed by lifting his first trophy as Inter boss, Simone Inzaghi could see his side become only the second team in Serie A history to score in 40 consecutive games.
Atalanta will certainly have their work cut out if they are to end a run which has seen them come out on top in just two of their 11 encounters with Inter under Gian Piero Gasperini.
La Dea’s home record this term does not make for great reading either. They have won only three of their nine league matches at the Gewiss Stadium.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Juventus vs Udinese (Saturday, 7.45pm)
Juventus will hope to extend their unbeaten run to eight games as they welcome Udinese to the Allianz Stadium.
Both sides are fresh from remarkable games last weekend — Juve winning 4-3 at Roma in a modern-day classic and an under-strength Udinese on the wrong end of a 6-2 loss against Atalanta.
The two teams drew 2-2 on the opening day, but Juve have not failed to beat Udinese in a Serie A campaign since the 1989-90 season.
Despite sitting mid-table, the visitors do have one of the league’s most in-form strikers at their disposal.
Since October, only three players have bagged more goals than Beto’s eight.
Roma vs Cagliari (Sunday, 5pm)
Jose Mourinho needs a huge reaction from his Roma team after they threw away a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 at home to Juventus on Sunday.
They face a Cagliari outfit who have put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Mourinho's men may take encouragement from their recent record against the Sardinians. They have won 10 of the last 15 Serie A meetings, losing only once — a 3-2 away defeat last April.
Walter Mazzarri's visitors have shown great character in their last two outings, coming from behind to beat both Sampdoria and Bologna 2-1.
The away side could do with having more shots though. They have had one attempt for every 54 touches compared to Roma’s league-high ratio of one in 39.
Bologna vs Napoli (Monday, 5.30pm)
Out-of-sorts Bologna will look to stem a run of four defeats in five as they entertain a Napoli side hoping to keep their fading Scudetto hopes alive.
The visitors have endured a rough patch lately with injuries to key players playing a part.
Luciano Spalletti's side have picked up 11 points in nine matches since going unbeaten in their opening 12 league games of the campaign.
Encounters between these two at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara have been difficult to call in recent times, with the Rossoblu winning eight of the last 17 and the Partenopei seven.
Napoli have won each of their last three league meetings, however.
AC Milan vs Spezia (Monday, 5.30pm)
If Inter drop points at Atalanta on Sunday night, victory for Milan will send them top of Serie A.
But they could face a tough challenge from Spezia, who have won their last two games on the road — 1-0 against Genoa last time out and, impressively, by the same scoreline against Napoli just before Christmas.
Thiago Motta's side recorded a famous 2-0 home win over the Rossoneri last February but come up against a Milan outfit that have won 10 of their last 11 league games against teams in the bottom half.
Should the scores be level as the game enters the final 30 minutes, Spezia might start to sweat. The away side have scored a league-low seven goals in that period, while Milan have netted a league-high 18.
This weekend’s other games
Sampdoria vs Torino (Saturday, 2pm)
Salernitana vs Lazio (Saturday, 5pm)
Sassuolo vs Verona (Sunday, 11.30am)
Venezia vs Empoli (Sunday, 2pm)
Fiorentina vs Genoa (Monday, 7.45pm)