As Italy struggles to come to terms with failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in a row, the focus quickly shifts back to domestic action as Inter Milan travel to Juventus for a stern test of their Serie A title ambitions.
Champions Inter led the standings at the turn of the year but have let their advantage slip by collecting only seven points from seven games, a run including only one victory.
They sit third in the standings with a game in hand, six points behind leaders AC Milan and three adrift of Napoli ahead of a daunting trip to Turin on Sunday.
Lack of goals away from home has been a problem for Inter but coach Simone Inzaghi called on his players to hold their nerve.
“I don’t think we’re afraid, I think the lads feel the weight of responsibility. We were close to perfect in November, December and the start of January,” Inzaghi said after their last game, a 1-1 home draw with Fiorentina.
“We’re experiencing a lull but we need to stay calm and work even harder to get back to winning ways… I’d be worried if we weren’t creating anything. Perhaps we’re rushing things a bit too much and maybe the results are starting to get to us.”
Returning to winning ways in Turin is easier said than done, however, as Inter have not won a league game at the Allianz Stadium in nearly a decade.
A resurgent Juve, meanwhile, have reeled in the title contenders to sit a point behind Inter.
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri has repeatedly said their ultimate aim is a top-four finish, dismissing talk of being involved in the title race, but a 16-match unbeaten run since November has put them within touching distance of their rivals.
Leaders Milan will look to extend their winning streak to four games when they host Bologna while Napoli, who have lost only one away fixture this season, travel to fifth-placed Atalanta.
Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma, level with Atalanta on 51 points and riding high after a memorable 3-0 derby win over Lazio, travel to Sampdoria in a bid to extend their unbeaten run to 10 games.