Marotta rings the changes as crisis-hit Inter tackle Napoli
Inter Milan's new CEO Giuseppe Marotta has begun to ring the changes at crisis-hit Inter Milan with the axe falling on Belgian bad boy Radja Nainggolan who has been suspended for disciplinary reasons by the club despite Wednesday's key Serie A game against Napoli looming.
Marotta arrived at the Chinese-owned Italian club from Juventus this month after an eight-year spell during which the Turin giants won seven Serie A titles and four Italian Cups.
And the 61-year-old Marotta wants to turn the clock back for Inter whose best decade, culminating with the treble of Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup crowns under Jose Mourinho in 2010, has been followed by the worst.
Nainggolan was suspended after again turning up late to training on Sunday following the team's demoralising 1-1 draw against bottom club Chievo.
The heavily-tattooed 30-year-old was also dropped by previous club Roma in January after posting an Instagram video of himself drinking, smoking and swearing at a New Year's party.
The Belgian joined Inter last summer to link up with former Roma coach Luciano Spalletti.
But he has angered club management not only by his party lifestyle but casual approach to physiotherapy as he recovers from injury.
Spalletti had brushed aside criticism before the Chievo match, in which the Belgian started but was substituted before the late equaliser.
"I can only say how he's spent his week on the pitch. He trained well. The rest are not things that concern me," said Spalletti before the game.
But Spalletti's future is now also on the line during the final two games before the winter break against Napoli and Empoli, with Inter having won just two of the last nine games in all competitions and crashed out of the Champions League.
Inter are third, already 16 points behind leaders Juventus, and eight adrift of second-placed Napoli, who are on a 10-game unbeaten run in Serie A.
Carlo Ancelotti is expecting a challenge against his old rival Spalletti whose side are nevertheless on a streak of six straight home league wins at the San Siro.
"I don't know, they give me the impression of being a growing club and team," said Ancelotti.
Inter's last win over Napoli was in April 2016 with captain Mauro Icardi scoring his only goal in 13 games played against the southerners.
Spalletti, meanwhile, leads eight to six in Italian league wins over Ancelotti.
- Christmas break for Ronaldo -
Unbeaten champions Juventus head to Atalanta, in ninth, in record-breaking form, having not conceded a league goal in nearly two months.
Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to be rested for the first time this season, with Douglas Costa likely to slip into the Portuguese star's position alongside in-form Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala.
Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny wants to stretch his run of Serie A clean sheets to seven games.
"It's important that we win because there's a head-to-head in Milan between Napoli and Inter, so if we do our job we can improve our position in the table even further," said Szczesny.
But Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini hopes to pull off a shock in Bergamo.
"Juventus are beating all the records, 16 won out of 17 matches and a draw, we will try to stop it to celebrate Christmas with our fans," said Gasperini.
Roma, down in tenth after last weekend's defeat to Juventus, travel to coach Eusebio Di Francesco's former club Sassuolo.
The game will also be a family affair as Di Francesco will come up against his son Federico who plays as a winger for the side from Modena.
Sassuolo are just one point ahead of Roma and a win for either club would allow them to move closer to the Champions League places.
Lazio travel to Bologna trying to consolidate fourth position ahead of AC Milan, a point behind in fifth, before visiting second from bottom Frosinone.
Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso's future could be played out in the next two games following one win from six in Serie A and an embarrassing Europa League exit.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Frosinone v AC Milan (1130), Atalanta v Juventus, Bologna v Lazio, Cagliari v Genoa, Fiorentina v Parma, Sampdoria v Chievo (1400), Roma v Sassuolo, SPAL v Udinese, Torino v Empoli (all 1700), Inter Milan v Napoli (1930)
? 2018 AFP