Genoa - Sampdoria
How better to start a new year in Serie A than with the Derby della Lanterna? Local bragging rights would be sufficient to make this an important fixture at any time, but both clubs will be feeling an even greater sense of urgency as they seek to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap.
Each team endured a disastrous end to 2015. Genoa have lost five in a row across all competitions, while Samp went seven league games without a win before finally overcoming Palermo in their last match before the winter break.
That was the Blucerchiati’s first win under Vincenzo Montella, and may have gone some way to bolstering morale. More significant to my reading of this game, though, is the fact Samp will have a full squad at their disposal. The winter pause was not long enough for Genoa to recover Tino Costa from injury, while Diego Perotti still has two games left on his suspension.
Away win - 3.50
Udinese - Atalanta
Atalanta are keen to add another centre-forward during this transfer window, and it’s not hard to see why. They have failed to score in five of their last six away matches, and continue to do without the injured Mauricio Pinilla up front. Already beaten by a heavily rotated Udinese side in the Coppa Italia last month, they will face something much closer to a first-choice defence this time around.
Home team to win without conceding - 3.75
Milan - Bologna
After losing four of their first seven league games, Milan can draw encouragement from the way they rallied to finish the year in sixth. Even so, their points tally leaves them closer to the lower half of the table than a Champions League berth. Draws against the division’s bottom two teams - Carpi and Verona - in December reminded us of this team’s shortcomings.
Bologna are no pushovers, having taken 12 points from seven games since appointing Roberto Donadoni as manager. There is also a chance that Milan will be without their best player of the last four months, Giacomo Bonaventura, after he missed training this week with a fever.
Double chance: draw or away win - 2.55
Chievo - Roma
Contrary to the predictions made by newspaper columnists heading into the winter break, Rudi Garcia remains the manager of Roma. A victory over Genoa in the club’s final match of 2015 appears to have bought the Frenchman at least a stay of execution, but further improvement will be required to keep him in the job long-term. Roma had previously gone seven matches without a win in all competitions.
This is not an easy place to resume. Chievo are a hard team to beat at the best of times, and the Giallorossi must do so without Miralem Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan and Edin Dzeko - all of whom are suspended. But Roma will have Gervinho in their starting line-up, and that is not to be underestimated. They have taken 25 points from the 10 games in which the Ivorian has played at least a full half.
Away win - 2.20
Juventus - Verona
The schedule has been kind to Juventus, who ease back into action with a home match against last-placed Verona. It ought to be a walkover: the champions have won their last seven Serie A matches, while their opponents have not won a league game all season.
But Juventus have failed to win their opening match of a new calendar year in three of the past five seasons, and Verona have battled to draws against Milan and a good Sassuolo team in the last month. The visitors are rightly heavy underdogs but, from a betting standpoint, such long odds on the draw might offer better value than anything you could get backing the home team.
Draw - 7.50
Lazio - Carpi
Only three teams have conceded more goals than Lazio in Serie A this season, the extended absence of Stefan De Vrij leaving them perilously weak at centre-back. Reinforcements will surely arrive before the end of this transfer window, but in the meantime the Biancocelesti might find that attack is the best form of defence against opponents who are even more flimsy at the back. Carpi have shipped 22 goals in eight away games.
Over 2.5 goals - 1.91
Palermo - Fiorentina
Only Juventus collected more points during the 2015 calendar year than Fiorentina. The Viola finished the year joint-second in Serie A but will need to keep the pace up for some time yet if they are to wrestle a Champions League berth away from the likes of Napoli, Inter, Juventus and Roma.
Getting the new year off to a fast start is imperative, and that ought to be achievable enough against a mediocre Palermo team. Fiorentina have won their last four meetings with the Sicilians, scoring 11 times but also conceding six along the way.
Away team to win but both teams to score - 4.20
Sassuolo - Frosinone
Statistically the worst travelers in the division, Frosinone have collected only a single point in eight games away from their Stadio Matusa. Shorn of starting right-back Aleandro Rosi and left winger Danilo Soddimo, I do not fancy them to reverse the trend here.
Home win - 1.55
Empoli - Inter
Four consecutive wins propelled Empoli all the way up to seventh at the end of last year, but their mettle will be tested over the next month. After this appointment with Inter come visits to Torino and Chievo before home games against Milan and Napoli. If they can remain in their current position by the end of that stretch it will be time to start taking their European challenge very seriously indeed.
It seems more likely that they will slip. Inter remain the league leaders, and have had good time now to recover from their implosion against Lazio. The Nerazzurri’s only significant absentee is Felipe Melo, and - on the evidence of that most recent game - that might be no bad thing.
Away win - 2.20
Napoli - Torino
Death, taxes and Gonzalo Higuaín sticking the ball in the net. The Argentinian has already scored six more goals than any other player in Serie A this season, and has struck in all but one of his team’s eight home games. In that context, the odds on a Higuaín goal against Torino look generous.
Higuaín to score - 1.90