Gallagher Premiership Highlights - Round 21Mar 27
Serie A returns: Five things to watch as Luciano Spalletti takes his unbeaten Napoli side to face old club Inter at San Siro
The league leaders have been breathtaking to watch this season, but after more than seven weeks without playing a competitive game and some poor friendly results since then, can they get back into their groove?
It's been more than seven weeks, but Serie A is finally back on BT Sport after the World Cup hiatus.
The highlight of the return to action is Inter vs Napoli, with the visitors hoping to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign in Italy's top flight.
Read on for all the major Matchday 16 storylines, as well as how to watch every single match from the competition's return exclusively live on BT Sport.
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Napoli look to hurdle Inter obstacle
Wednesday's fixture pits leaders Napoli against fifth-placed Inter, with Luciano Spalletti facing the club that sacked him in 2019, despite securing the Nerazzurri a Champions League place just before being axed.
Since taking over at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in May 2021 however, the veteran coach has captured the hearts of the Neapolitan public, with the team playing some scintillating football last season before collapsing in April to miss out on a first Scudetto since 1990 and the days of the Partenopei's most famous son.
This time round though, Napoli look to be made of sterner stuff despite several big names leaving over the summer, including Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly.
They have 13 victories and two draws from their first 15 league games, as well as topping their Champions League group - and scoring the most goals in the 2022/23 competition so far - to set up a last-16 clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Currently on an 11-game domestic winning streak, with Victor Osimhen back with a bang after injury and the likes of Hirving Lozano, Piotr Zielinski and Georgian wonderkid Khvicha Kvaratskhelia also lighting up the division, the team has also looked defensively tight thanks in no small part to the signing of South Korea international Kim Min-jae.
However, the extended break has created some cause for concern, with back-to-back friendly defeats at home against Villarreal (3-2) and Lille (4-1) casting doubt on whether they can maintain their early-season success as the centre-back pairing of Leo Ostigard and Juan Jesus looked flat-footed without Kim, who is expected to return on Wednesday.
Inter were the team that ended Napoli's 12-match unbeaten start in Serie A last campaign, and the Milanese outfit have won the last four meetings between the sides at San Siro.
Simone Inzaghi's men secured morale-boosting back-to-back wins prior to the World Cup against Bologna and Atalanta, scoring nine goals in the process, with Edin Dzeko getting three of those.
However, Inter may have a few key men out for this crunch match, with Stefan de Vrij definitely unavailable after suffering an ankle issue last week, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcelo Brozovic have been training separately as they nurse minor injuries. Lautaro Martinez is set to feature though after returning to club duty following Argentina's World Cup triumph.
Mari back in contention after stabbing
In late October, Pablo Mari was stabbed at a supermarket just outside Milan, with the perpetrator killing one and injuring four others in the attack.
As a result, the Arsenal loanee was treated in hospital, but has seemingly made a full recovery, playing the full 90 minutes in Monza's friendly with Torino on 28 December, having come on as a substitute six days earlier against Lyon.
The 29-year-old's presence will be invaluable as Monza look to stay up in their first Serie A season, an objective they look on course to realise as they sit 14th, nine points clear of the bottom three.
Their opening test of 2023 is away to Fiorentina, who despite their illustrious history are only four places and three points above their upcoming opponents and are without dangerous attackers Riccardo Sottil and Nicolas Gonzalez through injury.
La Viola will be itching to get going though after Nikola Milenkovic's 91st-minute own goal saw them slip to a heartbreaking late loss at reigning champions Milan in their previous encounter, while Monza entered the break with two wins from three.
Milan up against it in title defence
Milan won their first title for 11 years in May, but a successful defence is looking unlikely with Napoli eight points clear at the summit, so Stefano Pioli will have to hope that his side can defeat Salernitana and city rivals Inter do them a favour by taking points off the leaders.
The Rossoneri will have Olivier Giroud, Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao and Sergino Dest back from the World Cup, with all four players impressing at various points in Qatar.
However, Milan have bad memories of their visit to Salerno, which saw them take the lead on five minutes through Junior Messias before falling behind and eventually rescuing a point courtesy of Ante Rebic.
Rebic is one of six Milan men definitely out injured though, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mike Maignan, Alessandro Florenzi, Divock Origi and Fode Ballo-Toure, the latter two being sidelined last month with hamstring and shoulder problems respectively.
Salernitana miraculously survived last season after a remarkable run towards the end of the campaign, and have started 2022/23 relatively well, although they took just one point from their last three games heading into the extended break and are contending with injury problems of their own.
Goalkeeper Luigi Sepe, centre-back Norbert Gyomber, right-back Pasquale Mazzocchi and central midfielder Giulio Maggiore all out injured, while Antonio Candreva misses this game after being sent off against Monza.
Lazio face tough trip to resurgent Lecce
Lazio are fourth ahead of Inter on goal difference, but they will need to be on their guard at Lecce.
Maurizio Sarri's side only scored twice during four matches in November and come up against a team who won Serie B last season and picked up seven points in their last three games prior to the break, including wins over Sampdoria and Champions League-chasing Atalanta.
However, the Eagles will be boosted by the return of Ciro Immobile, whose spell out due to injury coincided with his team's loss of potency.
One man who will be particularly delighted at the Italian's return to fitness is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, with the pair sharing a telepathic understanding on the field that can be matched by few in the world game.
Despite their upturn in form in the first portion of the season, Lecce, nicknamed the Wolves, won't think they are quite safe yet, although they are eight points clear of 18th-placed Cremonese and possess a really exciting prospect in 20-year-old Lorenzo Colombo, who is on loan from Milan and announced his arrival in Serie A with a stunning long-range equaliser against Napoli in August, recording two goals and two assists in his last three matches.
Verona resume with third boss this term
After gaining fans in 2021/22 with their aggressive, expansive attacking play to finish ninth, this campaign has been misery heaped on misery for Hellas Verona, who have lost their last 10 games.
The departure of popular head coach Igor Tudor, along with centre-back Nicolo Casale and influential attacking trio Giovanni Simeone, Gianluca Caprari and Antonin Barak, has seen the Gialloblu's fortunes plummet.
Such has been their demise that they sit bottom this term with just five points from 15 games, Gabriele Cioffi and Salvatore Bocchetti having both been appointed and sacked since the summer.
Now it is the job of Marco Zaffaroni to try and dig Verona out of the monumental hole they find themselves in, with Bocchetti now his right-hand man.
The 53-year-old however has never managed in the top tier before and was last in charge at Serie B side Cosenza between August and December 2021, winning just four of his 17 matches.
That said, their first match after the resumption is a trip to Torino, who have only scored six times in seven league games this term (but have only conceded four).
A win for Verona - without right-back Davide Faraoni and centre-forward Kevin Lasagna through injury - would take them above Sampdoria and Cremonese into 18th, and although it would still be a considerable uphill task to reach safety, they still have more than half the season to achieve their goal.
Your Serie A matchday on BT Sport
Salernitana vs Milan (11.30am on BT Sport 1)
Sassuolo vs Sampdoria (11.30am on BT Sport 2)
Spezia vs Atalanta (1.30pm on BT Sport 1)
Torino vs Hellas Verona (1.30pm on BT Sport 2)
Roma vs Bologna (3.30pm on BT Sport 1)
Lecce vs Lazio (3.30pm on BT Sport 2)
Cremonese vs Juventus (5.30pm on BT Sport 1)
Fiorentina vs Monza (5.30pm on BT Sport 2)
Inter vs Napoli (7.30pm on BT Sport 1)