Strike off and title race back on in Italy
With this weekend's proposed strike called off, all eyes will be back on the title race in Italy with Juventus hosting Lazio in the most mouth-watering clash on Sunday. Lazio lie second in Serie A, just three points behind leaders AC Milan, who travel to Bologna, while Juve are third, another three points further back.
For both sides a victory is absolutly crucial to ensure they hang onto Milan's coat-tails and don't lose any more ground in the scudetto race. The Romans have undoubtedly been the surprise package of this season but having hung in there through 15 games and having beaten champions Inter Milan 3-1 at home in their last match, Lazio can now genuinely consider themselves title challengers.
At least that's what midfielder Stefano Mauri believes. "We have the quality to stay at the top, we've shown that, but we cannot think that we've arrived," he said. "We can't afford to think that we're at the top, we have to keep working to improve because when a team believes they've reached the top, that's when they start to slide."
However, the victory over Inter, added to a previous defeat of fourth-placed Napoli and a draw with Milan, has given Lazio the confidence that they are where they belong.
"The victory over Inter gave us a lot, especially the knowledge that we're a very good team," added the Biancocelesti captain. "We had already shown that but this was our best match.
"The important thing is to stay concentrated, especially in matches against the little teams because we've seen that the most successful teams have the right mentality."
Although they now believe they can challenge for honours, Mauri says no-one in the Lazio dressing room is talking about the scudetto.
"We're not thinking about that but one thing is for sure, if it comes to that Milan has the best chance of going all the way," he added. "They have players who can turn a game in any moment and what's more they've found the right balance. We're in this position, we're happy and we're enjoying it."
Mauri believes the trip to Juve on Sunday will give them another opportunity to test themselves against the best. "They have a great team, they've already said they're aiming to win the title but we just want to show that we can match them," said the veteran midfielder.
While those two battle it out, most of Serie A will be hoping Bologna can put a dent in Milan's ambitions and fire the title race wide open again. Milan are the form team in the league having won nine of their last 11 games and have started to put pressure on the rest.
Expected rivals such as Juventus, Inter and Roma are already six, ten and ten points behind respectively. Champions Inter are likely to fall even further behind over the next two weeks as they compete in the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, meaning they will miss two league fixtures.
That could put them 16 points behind Milan (although with two games in hand) when they next play following the winter break.
Roma host rock bottom Bari looking to bounce back from their recent stuttering form. They lost 3-1 at Palermo and then threw away a 2-0 lead at Chievo to draw 2-2.
Fourth placed Napoli travel to Genoa while Palermo host Parma and Sampdoria are at Brescia. Palermo and Sampdoria are level on points with Roma and Inter and well in UEFA Champions League qualification reckoning.