The Christmas break is finally over, and regular service resumes in the top leagues across Europe including, of course, Serie A.
Here are the five things to watch out for in the second half of this thrilling season.
Roma must make the right moves this January
The Giallorossi have been very shaky at the back, so defensive cover will be needed before the end of this month. The likes of Sead Kolasinac, Alvaro Arbeloa and Mathieu Debuchy have been linked with moves to the capital as Ashley Cole and Torosidis look to leave the club. Juan Jesus is also another potential target this winter, but a deal for the Brazilian looks unlikely at the moment. Last year Roma made some decisive mistakes in the transfer window and they must get it right this winter. Juan Iturbe, who will go down as one of the costliest blunders in Roma’s history, has already been offloaded, while Seydou Doumbia has returned after his loan spell in Russia. The Ivorian has made it clear that he does not see his future in Rome, and Walter Sabatini must handle this situation before the end of January. Roma are poised to welcome highly talented Brazilian Gerson this month and it remains to be seen where his next destination will be, with Empoli and Bologna touted as possible clubs looking to take him on loan.
Brazilian international Alisson would represent a strong choice to take over the shaky Wojciech Szcz sny and Morgan De Sanctis in the summer, and the deal could well be concluded this month as Juventus are also on the lookout for him. Addition of new players would mean a shuffle as there is a limit to the number of registered players in the squad. This is the dilemma Sabatini and coach Rudi Garcia will have to contend with when they put together their updated Serie A and Champions League squads. Roma will also have to find a replacement for Iturbe, as they are lining up a deal to bring AC Milan loanee Stephan El Shaarawy back to Serie A. In case the Giallorossi are unable to close the deal for El Shaarawy, a move for Sunderlandai??i??s Jeremain Lens, Genoa’s Diego Perotti or Sassuoloai??i??s Gregoire Defrel would be on the cards. Roma are entering a crucial January transfer window when they will need to make all the right decisions to spark their Scudetto challenge back to life.
The return of Kevin Strootman represents a massive boost for Roma
After two years of injury torture, the Dutchman is finally set to make his long-awaited comeback in February, which will be welcome news for Rudi Garcia. His return from injury is as good as a new signing for the Giallorossi. Finally there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Dutch international who lost almost two seasons following his knee injury during a game against Napoli in March, 2014.
Three operations have been performed since then, and his imminent return will be welcomed with all the excitement of a new signing after the turn of the year, especially after the misfortunes he has suffered. He worked alone in the Christmas break with the view of returning to first team action before February. Things have been tough for the 25-year-old, but he is finally ready to put all of his problems behind him. If Strootman is able to recapture the form he once showed, then he can have a huge impact on Roma’s second half of this crucial season.
Napoli desperate to realise Scudetto dream .
The Napoli players must continue to believe in lifting the title this May. This season may be the closest they come to achieving the goal, with the Partenopei revitalised under Maurizio Sarri and currently sitting just one point off leaders Inter Milan. Despite the demanding fixture list, Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri has rotated very little. 18 Napoli players have been used across 17 Serie A fixtures. Including the Europa league, only 22 players have played for Napoli so far this season. Napoli are actively searching for a defender in this transfer window.
After proving to have excellent squad depth in their ranks for both Italian and European competitions, coach Maurizio Sarri and sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli have the objective to build a squad capable of lasting the entire season. Napoli have a realistic chance of winning the title this year and are one of the contenders for the Europa league as well. Expectations are high for Sarriai??i??s team and making the right moves this month will only help them achieve their lofty goals.
Misfiring Morata looking to have a positive end to the season
With a disappointing end to 2015 now behind him, Alvaro Morata hopes to start 2016 on a positive note, just as he did last season. The young Spaniard has lost his place in the first team this season but is likely to feature from the start against Hellas Verona as Mario Mandzukic is a doubt for the game. The poor form of Mandzukic and Dybala has relegated Morata to the bench in recent months, and he will be looking to end his three-month goal drought.
The 23-year-old has only scored three times this season, once in Serie A and twice in the Champions League. He has only made one start in Juve’s last six fixtures. The situation reminds of the time when he began his career in Turin with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente keeping him out of the starting lineup. He certainly has the backing of his club who recently rewarded him with a new deal, and now Morata must repay the faith as he did last year scoring four goals in Serie A, five in the Champions League from the Round of 16, and two in the Coppa Italia after December.
Young Italian key to Milan’s revival
Despite a shaky start to the season Milan fans have reasons to be optimistic at the beginning of this year. Results are the most important aspect of the game and those collected by Milan have fallen far short of the clubai??i??s lofty ambitions. However the last two games of 2015 showed some promising signs which have rekindled the hopes of the long suffering supporters. Another positive aspect in the last game was Milan’s average age of 25 which which shows that club President Silvio Berlusconiai??i??s vision of building a team consisting of talented young Italian stars is seemingly coming to fruition.
Perhaps the two biggest young talents to emerge from the squad have been Alessio Romagnoli(20) and Gianluigi Donnarumma(16). Giacomo Bonaventura has arguably been the leader of this team with inspirational displays even in difficult times. In addition to these three, Andrea Bertolacci joined the club in the summer, and although injuries have dented his hope of settling down quickly, there is hope that the move to a 4-4-2 module will help the 24-year-old as it suits his characteristics in particular. There are also the likes of Davide Calabria and Mattia De Sciglio to consider in terms of young players who are getting their opportunity at the San Siro. As a result, a project that was started years ago is finally starting to develop with a young Italian core in the team.