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Serie A: AFCON absences could hinder Napoli and Milan

After a winter break lasting more than three weeks, Italy's Serie A returns this week for its first batch of matches in 2022.

(This article was originally published on 05.01.2022)

At the season's halfway stage, the race for the title and the top four is wide open as is the battle at the bottom but multiple teams face up to a month missing a handful of key players due to the start of the Africa Cup of Nations this week.

Juve hope to continue ascent with positive result against Napoli

Things have not quite clicked for Max Allegri upon his return to Juventus this season with the club four points adrift of the top four after 19 matches.

They have missed a talismanic figure in the final third like Cristiano Ronaldo - their top scorer is Paulo Dybala with five strikes in Serie A - and they already have five defeats to their name.

But the Old Lady finished 2021 with four wins and a drawn from their final five league fixtures of the year and will be determined to send out a message to the rest of the division by beating third-placed Napoli.

The Naples outfit had been top of the pile until they receded in December with three losses in four games.

They also go into their match with Juve with key defender Kalibou Koulibaly having been included in Senegal's Afcon squad despite an injury and key forward Victor Osimhen missing as he deals with facial fractures.

The forward, who will also miss Nigeria's Afcon campaign, has bagged nine goals in 14 matches across all competitions this season and his absence puts the team on the back foot heading into their match with Juventus.

Milan looking to keep tabs with rivals Inter at league summit

The city of Milan has dominated Serie A this season. Inter lead the way at the season's halfway point with 14 wins from 19 matches and Milan themselves are only four points behind them in the race for the title.

Inter are 2/7 to claim the Scudetto while Milan are 10/1 with Napoli 8/1 and Atalanta 10/1.

And Milan are 21/20 to win their next assignment which is against Jose Mourinho's Roma at the San Siro.

Although it has been a topsy-turvy season for Roma, they ended last year on a positive note, winning their final away game 4-1 at Atalanta and finishing top of their Europa Conference League group.

And although they go into this game with Milan as underdogs - Roma are 13/5 to prevail with the draw 5/2 - they can draw some confidence from the fact their opponents will be light on quality in midfield with Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer missing due to Afcon.

Reinforced Fiorentina a strong prospect at home to Udinese

One of the Serie A clubs sure to be mentioned time and time again this January transfer window are Fiorentina.

The club from Florence possess the division's leading scorer Dusan Vlahovic, who has netted 16 goals in 19 league affairs this term.

And although he has been heavily linked with a move to the likes of Juventus, Tottenham and Arsenal this month, the forward claimed recently he wants to lead his current club into Europe.

With 10 wins from 19 matches and new signing Jonathan Ikone having arrived from Lille, they are certainly in a position to challenge for the top five and six and are 4/7 to win their next assignment against Udinese, who are 14th in the standings and are 5/1 to come out on top. The draw is 3/1.

1Inter Milan  46
2AC Milan  42
3Napoli  39
4Atalanta  38
5Juventus  34
6AS Roma  32

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