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Four things to watch out for in Serie A this weekend as Matchday 15 brings down the curtain before the World Cup
The winner (if there is one) of the clash between the Juventus and Lazio will occupy one of the Champions League qualification spots heading into the World Cup, while Atalanta and Inter both need a victory to gatecrash the party.
It's testament to the job that Luciano Spalletti has done in regenerating Napoli that talk about who will win Serie A has somewhat subsided already.
The unbeaten Partenopei sit eight points clear of Milan and Lazio heading into the final matchday before the World Cup break, so instead, we're going to place our focus on the fight to finish in the top four, as well as the relegation battle.
Sixth-placed Atalanta will hope to stem the tide of successive losses when they welcome fifth-placed Inter (both on 27 points) to Bergamo in Sunday's opening clash, while that evening, fourth-placed Juventus (28 points) will hope to continue their resurgence against Maurizio Sarri's Lazio knowing that both teams are in the driving seat when it comes to nabbing a Champions League qualification place.
Roma, seventh on 26 points, and underdogs Udinese, who lie in eighth, will also believe that they are still in that conversation heading into the turn of the year.
Find out how to watch all EIGHT televised games on BT Sport this weekend below Matchday 15's storylines.
Old Lady re-Juvenated after strong run
Despite Juventus' exit from the Champions League, Massimiliano Allegri has - for the time being at least - weathered the storm swirling in his direction after Juve sat eighth after nine games having suffered successive defeats.
Scrutiny on Allegri ratcheted up further following another embarrassing defeat on the road at Maccabi Haifa, but the five-time Scudetto winner has since steadied the ship domestically, masterminding five consecutive clean sheets and victories in the process.
Juve's upturn in form has taken them to third in the table - just two points behind Milan - and it's been all the more impressive given that the last three of those wins have come without Dusan Vlahovic, who hasn't hit the heights of last season but is still the team's talisman when fit and may well be back for Sunday.
The injury list facing Allegri has left his midfield very stretched, but the headache has to a degree been a blessing in diguise, allowing Nicolo Faglioli to play an increasingly influential role in the last few weeks.
Lazio's recent Serie A form has been patchy and Sarri's side are also now in the Europa Conference League after losing 1-0 to Feyenoord to come third in a Europa League group where all four teams finished on eight points.
The absences of Ciro Immobile and right-back Patric are undoubtedly two of the reasons for that drop-off, but a win in the Derby della Capitale against Roma shows that they can prosper without them.
Last season's corresponding fixture saw Sergej Milinkovic-Savic equalise in the 96th minute as Lazio came from 2-0 down to spoil Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini's farewell game.
If this game provides half the drama of that night, it should be an absorbing watch.
Nerazzurri nearly Inter top four
A topsy-turvy first eight games of the league campaign left Inter eighth and with pressure mounting on Simone Inzaghi, and while the former Lazio boss' future is still up for debate, the 2020/21 champions are beginning to motor, scoring 17 times via nine different goalscorers in their last six games.
The only blot on their copybook during that run was a 2-0 loss to a noticeably-improving Juventus side, with Inter's latest win a 6-1 hammering of Bologna on Wednesday night, as Edin Dzeko bagged the pick of the bunch with a stunning volley.
Lautaro Martinez also got back among the goals against the Rossoblu, while Nicolo Barella is making more attacking contributions than ever and Federico Dimarco's threat going forward was particularly evident in midweek as he bagged a brace.
A very winnable Champions League round-of-16 tie against Porto will have also whetted the appetite for the months post-World Cup, but defeat at Atalanta will remind Inzaghi and his men of the inconsistency that has been their downfall this campaign.
Back-to-back 2-1 defeats against Spalletti's league leaders and newly-promoted Lecce have put dampened spirits slightly at Atalanta, but La Dea can return to the top four with victory in front of their home fans on Sunday.
All four goals conceded in the two recent losses stemmed from non-existent marking or sloppiness in possession, and Gian Piero Gasperini will know that his side cannot afforded to gift Inter similar opportunities.
Udinese experiencing rude awakening
Udinese looked to have carved out a niche for themselves this season as Serie A's surprise package.
After winning 2-1 at Hellas Verona at the start of October, the Little Zebras sat third, just one point adrift of Atalanta and Napoli.
However, Andrea Sottil has found the going significantly tougher since then and the Bianconeri are winless in six league games, as well as suffering a Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Monza.
The Friulians can't perhaps console themselves with the fact that five of those six league matches - and the latest two came after falling behind Lecce and Spezia - but the team's mood is unlikely to improve given they have Napoli next.
To make matters worse for the visitors, there is a chance that Georgian wing wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia could make a return for Napoli having missed the last two games with lower back pain.
It's hard to see their anything other than three points to the league-leading hosts.
Hellas Verona desperate for good news
It has not been a good campaign for Hellas Verona.
Losing head coach Igor Tudor and several star players over the summer looked ominous, and Tudor's replacement, Gabriele Cioffi, was sacked barely 100 days into the job after falling to replicate the results and attractive football witnessed the previous season.
Salvatore Bocchetti, who has never previously managed at first-team level, has been given the unenviable task of picking up the pieces, but Verona have lost all five games under him so far, making it eight defeats on the spin for the Gialloblu.
Despite the doom and gloom, a 1-0 reverse against Juventus provided some encouragement, with the hosts momentarily having the opportunity to level from the spot before it was decided, after a VAR review, that Leonardo Bonucci hadn't fouled Kevin Lasagna.
That result makes Sunday's meeting at home to 17th-placed Spezia absolutely pivotal.
The visitors are themselves without a victory since mid-September, although they did hold Udinese last time out and pushed Milan close before that as Paolo Maldini's son Daniele equalised against his parent club before Olivier Giroud's sumptuous late winner.
It may not be the weekend's glamour match-up, but for tension, the clash at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi won't be topped.
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