5 things to know about the Italian league
ROME (AP) — Serie A resumes with a bang Sunday with Juventus hosting Roma.
Two-time defending champion Juventus holds a five-point lead over Roma, with Napoli 10 points back in third.
There are three matches scheduled for Sunday with the other seven games to be played Monday.
Here are five things to know about the Italian league:
BEST vs. BEST
Juventus has scored the most goals and Roma has conceded the fewest entering the top-of-the-table clash at the Juventus Stadium.
Juventus has won nine straight matches and with one more victory can match Roma’s 10-match winning streak to start the season.
While Roma is still unbeaten, the Giallorossi have struggled since their excellent start, winning only two of their last seven matches.
But this match marks the first time this season that Roma coach Rudi Garcia has all of his strikers healthy, with captain Francesco Totti ready to start again after recovering from an injured right hamstring.
Before the holiday break, Mattia Destro scored three goals in as many matches after he, too, returned from several months out with injury.
As for Juventus, prized forward Carlos Tevez returned late from South America after tending to his wife in the hospital but now appears ready to play.
Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo is also back after a month out with a right knee injury, although defender Andrea Barzagli has complained of leg tendon pain in training this week.
Juventus needs only a draw against Roma to secure the Serie A winter title, a purely ceremonial honor but one that bodes well for the end of the season.
The last 10 clubs to take the winter title have gone on to be crowned Serie A champion.
If Juve doesn’t secure the title this weekend, the Bianconeri will have another chance a week later at Cagliari, while Roma hosts Genoa in its next match to conclude the first half of the season.
AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri announced over the break that he will leave the club at the end of this season, and local media are already speculating who will replace him.
Former Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf and Italy coach Cesare Prandelli top most lists of possible replacements.
The 37-year-old Seedorf is currently playing for Botafogo in Brazil but has indicated he would like to coach when his playing career is over.
Prandelli’s contract with Italy expires after this year’s World Cup.
Allegri’s contract expires at the end of this season and with Milan struggling in 13th place he was not offered an extension.
Milan hosts regional rival Atalanta at the San Siro on Monday and will face Atletico Madrid in the second round of the Champions League as the only Italian club to advance to the knockout stage.
New Milan signing Keisuke Honda likely won’t play this weekend but could make his debut against Sassuolo a week later.
WHO’S THE COACH?
Lazio has a tough match against Inter Milan on Monday and it’s unclear who is coaching the Roman club.
Vladimir Petkovic recently signed a deal to become coach of Switzerland’s national team after the World Cup but was hoping to continue with Lazio until the end of the season. But Lazio president Claudio Lotito announced over the break that Edy Reja was returning for a second stint with the club with immediate effect.
Petkovic has involved his lawyers in a protest to Lotito to stay on, and he is reportedly due to be paid 600,000 euros ($800,000) for the second half of the season.
Fourth-place Fiorentina hosts promoted Livorno in a Tuscan derby Sunday but is still without prized preseason signing Mario Gomez.
After transferring from Bayern Munich, Gomez only made a few appearances with Fiorentina at the start of the season before going down with a knee injury.
After numerous delays, Fiorentina is hoping that Gomez returns Jan. 12 at Torino.
Fortunately for Fiorentina, though, fellow forward Giuseppe Rossi has thrived in Gomez’s absence and leads Serie A with 14 goals in 17 matches. Tevez is next on the scoring chart with 11 goals, followed by Inter’s Rodrigo Palacio with 10.
Livorni is next to last, three points above Catania.