Serie A's New Year: Five Men with a Point To Prove
It's been away too long.
With bad weather and the winter break, we have been starved of Italian football for what seems like an eternity.
That will end on Wednesday with a day-long buffet of Serie A to feast upon.
And a lot of people, like Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara, have something to prove.
Cagliari vs. Roma: Luca Toni
The Sardinians are a tough prospect at home, but their visitors have not looked back since the appointment of Claudio Ranieri.
However, the real talking point should be the return of Luca Toni to Serie A after being cleared to join Roma on loan from Bayern Munich.
The big striker has made no secret of his desire to secure a spot at the World Cup in South Africa, and he will have to hit the ground running if he wants to do so.
He certainly offers the Giallorossi a new option up front, and that could help them graduate into major players.
Toni will relish this chance after some shabby treatment in Germany.
Chievo vs. Inter: Goran Pandev
One of the revelations of the season will hope to halt Inter’s progress towards another Scudetto on a dreadful playing surface in Verona.
It could also see another striker make his club debut.
The Nerazzurri, as if they needed more players, have snapped up Goran Pandev. who will end his footballing exile at Lazio.
He is a quality addition to the Inter squad and represents an intriguing sidekick to Diego Milito. It's an early afternoon kick-off, so make sure you switch on your television sharp on Wednesday.
Sampdoria vs. Palermo: Antonio Cassano
The swings of Serie A are encapsulated by these two teams’ fortunes.
Samp were outstanding at the start of the season, while Palermo have improved markedly of late.
They find themselves in limbo at the moment with a campaign that could go either way.
The man with most to prove? Probably Antonio Cassano. After a red-hot start, he has faded and no longer looks like the answer to the Italian national team’s problems.
He must recapture his early season form if the Doriani are to emerge from their current slump.
Parma vs. Juventus: Felipe Melo
Incredibly, the Parmigiani could leapfrog Juventus if they win this mouthwatering tie.
There has been much anguish in Turin over recent results, with defeat at home to Catania prompting disgust among many.
It is now time for Felipe Melo to stand up and be counted.
The Brazilian has infuriated Juve fans with his inconsistent displays and error-strewn efforts.
Now he has to deliver the performances he produced with Fiorentina or risk being jeered for weeks to come—by his own supporters.
Milan vs. Genoa: David Beckham
With David Beckham back in the fold, the Rossoneri face an up-and-down Rossoblu outfit in the San Siro in an evening match.
The Englishman was surprisingly influential in his previous loan spell at the club.
It remains to be seen whether he can do the same again.
A major point of interest will be how Leonardo slots him into his ultra-attacking formation.
At the moment, he plays with his team almost split in two between forwards and defence.
Any slip-ups in his system are sure to be pounced upon by the very aggressive visiting team.