In Italy the winter break does not begin until early January. So that means that, unlike in Spain and Germany, football is played on Boxing Day.
It a crucial time of the season. Clubs are determined to go into the two week break in a strong position, to lay the foundations for the second half of the campaign.
And this year there are some hugely important games for sides at both ends of the table.
Frosinone vs Milan
Frosinone desperately need wins. They have managed just one so far this season and find themselves in 19th, in danger of being cut adrift in the bottom three.
That solitary victory came away from home, too, at SPAL. Their home form will need to improve if they are to stand a chance of survival.
This game is equally important for Milan, who travel to Frosinone looking to secure their place in the top four. Gennaro Gattuso’s side have put themselves in a position to challenge for a Champions League place, although they are hardly making things easy.
Just a few points separate fourth from 12thin Serie A. Those outside of the top three have been plagued by inconsistency so far this season.
Milan are strong at home, but worryingly unpredictable away. They have won only two of their eight league games on the road, a record that might give Frosinone some hope.
Both sides, for very different reasons, are in need of three points.
Atalanta vs Juventus
Even by the standards of recent years, Juventus have been imperious in Serie A this season. Their lead at the top, not even at the halfway stage, seems unassailable. Napoli will still hope they can catch them, but with every passing gameweek optimism ebbs away.
Max Allegri’s side face another difficult away test on Boxing Day when they travel to Atalanta, who still have aspirations of a top four finish. They are tough opposition at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, and will be hopeful of inflicting a shock defeat on their visitors.
Juventus, though, appear to be even better away from home than in Turin. After their 1-0 win over Torino in the Derby della Mole, the Bianconeri have won all eight of their games on the road in Serie A this season. They have scored 17 goals and conceded just four.
This, then, is a big ask for Atalanta. They will need to focus on stopping Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic at one end, and at the other try to penetrate Juventus’ seemingly impermeable defensive.
Roma vs Sassuolo
Very little separates Roma and Sassuolo. They have been neck and neck throughout the season, firmly ensconced in the race for European football.
Boxing Day’s game, then, feels significant. Given how tight the division is, a win for either side could be decisive come the final standings.
Roma will be buoyed by their home record: they have been beaten only once at the Stadio Olimpico, and have scored the most home goals (21) of any side in the league.
Sassuolo’s inconsistency away from home will mean that Roma are favourites for this one, although recent results suggest they will not do it the easy way. In each of their last two games at the Stadio Olimpico, Roma have conceded twice: a 2-2 draw against Inter and a 3-2 win over Genoa.
This points to a worryingly leaky defence, which Sassuolo will be hopeful of exploiting. If nothing else, this should be an entertaining one.
Inter vs Napoli
Second vs third, the Nerazzurri vs the Partenopei. This is very much the blockbuster clash of Boxing Day.
A win for Inter here, you feel, would all but confirm Juventus as title winners with months of the season still to play. And recent form suggests this will be one of the toughest tests of the season for Napoli.
Inter have lost only once at San Siro this season: a 1-0 defeat against Parma back in September. Since then they have won six in a row at home, conceding just once in the process.
Luciano Spalletti’s side are, then, a force on home turf. And they will be determined to close the gap between themselves and second placed Napoli.
For Carlo Ancelotti and Napoli, this is an opportunity to pull away from Inter and stay on the coattails of Juventus, who will, inevitably, capitalise on any slipups from the chasing pack.
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