“There’s a chance Dybala will be part of the matchday squad although he isn’t likely to feature in the game itself. Calling him up would be an important step towards reacclimatising him and getting him back on track to match fitness both mentally and physically.
“Chiellini is doing well, likewise Marchisio. Barzagli is progressing, Dybala is close to a return, Pjaca is running again; after the disappointment of Sunday’s defeat, things began to look better already from the start of this week.
"Of the three central defenders we have available, Benatia is the one with the requisite characteristics to play in the middle, in the Bonucci role if you like.
“Up front, Mandzukic and Higuain are both in good shape and have the qualities to feed off each other in and around the box.”
Looking backwards, looking forwards
“For the first time in a few months we’ve had the luxury of getting almost the full squad together for a full week to prepare and to ensure that there’s no repeat of what happened last weekend. That extra time as a group will only serve us well.
“On paper, there’s nothing more we could have done so far this season: we are top of the league in spite of defeat last weekend and on Wednesday we will have the chance to seal first place in the Champions League.
“Over the course of a campaign, the odd poor result is normal. The most important thing in these instances is how you react to them.
"We’ve seen an intriguing opening to the Serie A season; there’s very little separating the top seven sides as we approach the winter break. Tomorrow’s game, however well Atalanta are playing, isn’t a “title-decider” yet; Gasperini’s men have a chance of course but there are plenty of other teams hot on our tail.”
“Credit must go to Atalanta who are playing some excellent football with a core of promising and talented Italian youngsters. I wouldn’t describe tomorrow’s match as a title tussle simply because there are a host of other teams besides them in the hunt for the Scudetto.
“A team that wins six in a row is clearly going to have very few weaknesses. They have an excellent coach and are a club that invests generously in its youth teams and reaps the rewards on the field. Every year now, they are promoting quality players to their first team.”