The Serie A club-by-club review: It's winter break, but where will things stand come May?

Paolo Bruno

Juventus dominated the league, Fiorentina surprised, and Palermo and Siena have their supporters wringing their hands. Will anything change in the second half of Serie A?

Want to know how each club has fared in the first half of Serie A? Curious about where they might end up at the end of the season? Read on.

Juventus

Perhaps it's more indicative of the quality of Serie A than the quality of the side that Juventus have an eight-point lead going into the winter break. But to be fair to the Old Lady, they also managed to top a decent group in the Champions League while still leading on the domestic front. Inter may have ended their unbeaten run, but Juventus still managed to topple fellow scudetto chasers Napoli, and hold both Fiorentina and Lazio to draws. The challenge for the second half of the season will be keeping their defense just as strong in the absence of Giorgio Chiellini.

Verdict: Picking any other club for the title would fall under the heading of "ridiculous." Even if Juve don't nab that top striker in January, there's still no reason to think their performance will falter.

Fiorentina

Was it really just a few seasons ago that Fiorentina were playing in the Champions League? The Viola quickly fell from grace, but new coach Vincenzo Montella has worked wonders at the club. Even without star Stevan Jovetic for over a month, Fiorentina managed to finish the first half in third, thanks to a complete overhaul of the squad. Borja Valero, Juan Cuadrado and Gonzalo Rodríguez have proved to be indispensable additions to the club. Taking a chance on veteran Luca Toni also paid off, with six goals to the forward's name thus far this season. The Viola have the second best goal difference in Serie A, remain unbeaten at home and, of the top teams, have let just Napoli and Inter get the best of them.

Verdict: The Viola may not be a popular choice for second in Serie A -- after all, last season they only managed 13th place. Most believe the side will regress in the second half of the season, but there's no real reason to think Fiorentina will falter.

Inter Milan

Andrea Stramaccioni may be doing a better job with the formerly great Inter than his recent predecessors, but the inconsistency plaguing his side means they're unlikely to finish better than third. That's where they are currently in the table, tied on points with Fiorentina, although they did manage a rare win over the Viola. The nerazzurri accomplished the laudable feat of ending Juventus's unbeaten run -- the problems started after the victory in Turin. Inter managed just one point in their next three games, to relative lightweights Cagliari. They've lost to Atalanta and Parma, and managed just a point at home to Genoa.

Verdict: Strama needs to do some tinkering if he wants to see his side land a Champions League position come spring. He's overly reliant on his veterans, and an injury to Diego Milito, Esteban Cambiasso or Antonio Cassano could send Inter sliding down the table.

Napoli

Napoli were flying high at the beginning of the season and looked to be the squad most capable of challenging Juventus for the scudetto. But then they went all...Napoli. The loss to Juve in October wasn't really surprising. The draw with Torino was. So was Milan's come from behind point. Then came the week from hell. First the partenopei lost -- at home, breaking their undefeated record at the San Paolo -- to a comeback win from Bologna. Then they were docked two points for their role in the betting scandal, at the same time losing captain Paolo Cannavaro for six months. Next came another loss to Bologna, which kicked last year's winners out of the Coppa Italia. Napoli finished the winter with a win over Siena, keeping them in fourth.

Verdict: Once again, Napoli will fall short of a Champions League position. With the top five -- six, even -- sitting so close on points, the two-point docking the partenopei received just before the break is going to come back to haunt them. Walter Mazzarri must start being more flexible with his squad, as the side goes to pieces in the absence of Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik or Gokhan Inler.

Lazio

Considering Lazio are currently in second, it might seem strange to have them finishing in fifth. But Lazio just don't seem stable. Relying on a 34-year-old striker with a tendency to get himself injured seems like a recipe for disaster. Lazio have won three matches thus far without a goal from the German: 1-0 against Atalanta and Sampdoria, 2-1 over Siena. In his absence, they managed a 4-0 loss to Catania. Talk about a talisman -- a very risky talisman. Vladimir Petković needs to find further support for his side: Tommaso Rocchi is on his way out, Libor Kozák has never been the dream Lazio hoped for, and Hernanes can't shoulder the goalscoring burden on his own.

Verdict: Lazio have been lucky thus far. There's not much about Petković that suggests he's got the creativity to cope when that luck runs out.

AS Roma

It took Roma some time to settle into the new ways of Zdenek Zeman, but over the first half of the season we've had some great glimpses of the excitement a Zeman-led side can bring to Serie A: 4-2 victories over Genoa, Fiorentina and Milan, and a 4-1 over Palermo. One of the greatest things about a Zeman team is that it almost always allows the opposing side to score -- so it's really no wonder that Roma, despite being in sixth, have conceded the fourth-most goals in the league. The defense has lead to heartbreak at times this season, most notably in the back-to-back, come-from-behind victories by Udinese and Parma. Francesco Totti remains a legend, Erik Lamela is already a star, and Mattia Destro has stepped up. Now if only Zeman could reign in Pablo Osvaldo's temper...

Verdict: Perhaps having Roma finish this far down is a bit unfair on the inhabitants of Zemanlandia. But at the same time, their youthful temperaments lead to an inconsistency that suggests this won't be the year of the giallorossi.

AC Milan

If it weren't for Stephan El Shaarawy, Milan wouldn't be in seventh -- and as it stands, they remain seven points from even a Europa League position. That's what happens when you sell off your two best players to Paris Saint-Germain and have no funds to invest in adequate replacements. The young Pharaoh has been a wonder for the rossoneri, having scored 14 goals thus far, double that of the next closest contender, Giampaolo Pazzini. Yet Milan have fared remarkably well in their last six matches, drawing with Napoli, beating Juventus, and scoring 18 goals in the process. If this sort of team effort is what we can expect going further, they may push for European play.

Verdict: One great player does not a great team make, but at the same time, that player can lift a side. Still, Milan need to learn to adjust to their new lifestyle, perhaps by researching ways to make their Euro stretch further. Until then, glory is most likely out of their reach.

Parma

Currently eighth, it seems most likely that's where Parma will stay, just like last season. Roberto Donadoni has done quite well at the club, lifting them out of the relegation zone with his arrival last January, and building a side that can wrest a surprising amount of points from the big boys. Parma remain unbeaten at home this season, have taken a point from Fiorentina and Milan, and beaten Inter. They don't have fancy names on their side, unless you count Amauri, and who does? Ishak Belfodil is their top scorer, with five, but young forward Nicola Sansone will be one to watch during the second half.

Verdict: If you're looking for a club to support in Serie A, give the Crociati a try. They won't make you fear relegation, and they've almost always got a surprise up their sleeve. But you'll also never be accused of glory hunting, as it's almost impossible to imagine Parma making a run for the European places this season.

Udinese

Udinese have been playing Russian Roulette for awhile now, and this season, they got the bullet. After securing their place in the Champions League qualification round, the zebrette sold off two of their best players to Juventus, Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla. Goalkeeper Samir Handanović went to Inter. Antonio Di Natale and boss Francesco Guidolin had, shall we say, a disagreement. And this time, Udinese failed to pick up the slack. Their inability to create a team from the mishmash of newbies has shown in their results this time.

Verdict: Udinese love a draw. They've drawn exactly half of their matches this far, which will certainly keep them safe, but isn't exactly inspirational. Or aspirational. They'll be fine, but they won't stage a dramatic comeback that propels them into the European positions.

Catania

The rossazzurri are almost as fun this season as they were under Montella, as Rolando Maran has kept the structure of the team more or less intact. There's still a heavy Argentine presence, with the attack lead by Pablo Barrientos, Alejandro Gómez and Gonzalo Bergessio. Maran also relies heavily on Francesco Lodi, whose free kicks are a thing of absolute beauty. The trouble with Catania is the lack of consistency. On a good day, they'll run wild, beating sides like Lazio 4-0. On a bad day, they'll lose 2-1 to a last minute goal by the lowly Pescara.

Verdict: You can almost see the team fraying at the edges. There's no guarantee that Barrientos will stay, and at times he seems positively unmotivated. When the chemistry between him and Gómez fizzles out, the entire team suffers. A 10th-placed finish seems about right.

Bologna

Currently 14th, Bologna have impressed in recent weeks, most notably with a draw against Lazio followed by consecutive wins (in the league and Coppa Italia) against Napoli. There was also the come-from-behind victory over Roma, which occurred early in the season, before it was apparent how easy it would be to put goals past Zeman's side. But Bologna have also lost to Chievo, Sampdoria and Torino, so it's really a flip of a coin that determines the outcome of the match.

Verdict: With veterans like Alberto Gilardino and Alessandro Diamanti, Bologna will stay safe. At the same time, when your side puts its faith in the likes of those two, your star probably isn't shooting up too quickly, either.

Torino

Dull. Dull dull dull dull dull dull dull. Freshly promoted, it's clear that Giampiero Ventura has one goal in mind: a second season in Serie A. Sure, Torino had that dramatic 5-1 victory over Atalanta back in September, but since then, the most they've managed in a match has been two. The granata have scored just 20 in their 18 matches, and failed to score in five. Still, they're currently 13th, which means that at least they're staying safe, even if they're boring the rest of us while doing it.

Verdict: Don't expect a dramatic change from Torino. They've promised to hang on to top goal-scorer Rolando Bianchi, but the granata's ambition doesn't get much bigger: they simply want to reinforce their squad and add to the bench come January, not bring in any sparkle. It'll be a lower mid-table finish for Torino.

Atalanta

Considering their habit of getting docked points before the season even starts, La Dea have done well to keep their heads above water. They've experienced a number of peaks and valleys already this year: beating Milan, losing 5-1 to Torino, beating Inter, losing 4-1 to Fiorentina. Stefano Colantuono is still trying to convince Germán Denis that he has the ability to score, although he seems to have given up on Maxi Moralez living up to his potential.

Verdict: The roller-coaster ride will continue, but the safety belt will stay in place, and Atalanta will live to see another season in Serie A.

Chievo Verona

After hovering so close to the relegation zone during much of the first part of the season, it's rather surprising that Chievo hit the winter break in 12th place. Of course, that means they're just six points into the safety zone, and a couple bad matches could send their supporters reaching for paper bags once again -- although whether that's to stop the hyperventilating or just prevent them from actually having to watch their side is anyone's guess. Despite a loss to Torino right before the break, the Flying Donkeys have performed better under Eugenio Corini, a 5-1 loss to Milan aside. They beat Roma, held Fiorentina to a draw and even managed to score four goals in a match -- even if it was against Genoa.

Verdict: Safe, once again. The Flying Donkeys have just enough in them to keep from being relegated. All the more pity to those who have to watch them in Serie A on a regular basis.

Sampdoria

It looked like it was going to be a good season for Sampdoria, freshly promoted back to the top flight. They began the year with a win over Milan, setting off an unbeaten run of five matches, including a draw with Roma. But Samp did little to reinforce their Serie B squad, and cracks started to appear. An expected loss to Napoli set off a hellish chain of seven straight matches without so much as a point, including losses to Cagliari and Palermo. Doria then managed to grab a couple wins, but are now stuck in a winless streak of four games, and the appointment of Delio Rossi did nothing to turn the tides. With Juventus up next after the break, it's hard to see when the points will return.

Verdict: Samp's safety has more to do with the fact that Serie A has some terrible teams this season than the skill of their squad.

Genoa

The rossoblu went into the winter break on a high, holding Inter to a 1-1 draw, although the match spoke more about the frailties of the nerazzurri than the talents of Genoa. There's nothing terribly wrong with the side. They usually manage to score goals, and although they've had a few 4-2 losses this season, they're not one of the worst at conceding, either. But at this point, they must just be glad they managed to land Ciro Immobile for the season, as the youngster is the top scorer for Genoa with five goals. Unsurprisingly, Marco Borriello has been a disappointment, scoring just three thus far.

Verdict: With Cagliari in a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral, and Pescara waiting in the wings should one of the bottom three go on a tear, Genoa will remain safe. Although it remains to be seen if they'll do so without the fans rioting against their team again.

Pescara

It's been a rough road for freshly-promoted Pescara. They started off the season with 3-0 losses to Inter and Torino. They were hammered 6-1 by Juventus, 5-1 by Napoli and 4-1 by Milan, leading to the worst goal difference in the league. Yet the delfini have pluck, and, more importantly, they have talent. Sure, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Marco Verratti have all gone, but Pescara still have great young players in Juan Quintero, Ante Vukušić and Mervan Çelik. The challenge for Cristiano Bergodi is to find a way to form them into a cohesive unit.

Verdict: The assembled talent will be just enough to keep Pescara up, assuming Palermo don't pull out of their slump and start shooting up the table.

Cagliari

It seemed Ivo Pugla and Diego López were going to rescue Cagliari. Appointed in early October after Cagliari failed to win any of their first six matches, the duo put the Sardinians on the winning track. Cagliari won four in a row before running aground against Fiorentina. Since that 4-1 loss, Cagliari are winless in eight. Add to that a crazy owner and the necessity to sell their best players -- it seems Radja Nainggolan and Davide Astori, at least, are on their way out -- and it seems only a miracle will keep the isolani up.

Verdict: Serie B, where they can cope easier with reduced funds and issues surrounding their stadium. It'll be terrifying at times for Cagliari supporters. Good thing there's not many of them.

Palermo

What a terrible, awful, no good, very bad season for Palermo. The rosanero have won just three matches and scored just 15 goals. Their best result thus far was a 3-1 derby win against island rivals Catania. Top scorer Fabrizio Miccoli may have five goals, but three of those came in the 4-1 win over Chievo. Amazingly enough, Maurizio Zamparini has yet to sack Gian Piero Gasperini, who's been at the helm since mid-September. Perhaps because the turn-around always seems just around the corner.

Verdict: Palermo seem resigned to relegation. Unless they pull a magical rabbit out of the hat in January, there's likely nothing that can be done to save them from Serie B.

Siena

We could play the game of "where would Siena be had they not been docked six points?" but the reality is, Siena did get punished, and it's not like they're going to get those points back. Besides, even with the additional points, the robur would only have 17 on the season, putting them level at the break with Sampdoria and Pescara, a mere two points above the drop. Siena are, quite simply, poor. Their best scorer is Emanuele Calaiò with four goals, and he's not scored in two months. A 4-1 loss to rivals Fiorentina saw Serse Cosmi get the boot, but Giuseppe Iachini's only game in charge brought a 2-0 loss to Napoli to see out the year.

Verdict: This hole is too deep. It's best for Siena to just drop back down, lick their wounds, and recover in the peaceful embrace of Serie B.

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