Inter Milan have Serie A's top spot in sight as they visit Hellas Verona for Wednesday's final fixture of an eventful year for the club.
While the Scudetto-chasing visitors have now won six league games on the spin, hosts Verona picked up only four points from their last four games after a bright start to the campaign.
Sunday's hard-earned victory over Serie A new boys Spezia leaves resurgent Inter only one point off leaders and arch-rivals AC Milan, who also won at the weekend in spite of a striker shortage.
Even in light of yet another Alexis Sanchez injury last week, coach Antonio Conte has no such problems up front. The Nerazzurri have now scored 32 league goals in their first 13 Serie A games at a rate of nearly three per game.
Following the weekend's action - which brought indefatigable forward Romelu Lukaku's 300th game in the Premier League or Serie A - the Belgian star has now scored against 43 different league teams, with 147 goals in that time.
His well-taken penalty against Spezia - a ninth successive spot-kick conversion - put Inter in the driving seat and again underlined the former Everton man's value to the club.
Importantly, Conte's team have recently been able to regain the levels of consistency which they enjoyed last season, when they came close to claiming a league and European double but wound up empty-handed.
Despite a painful Champions League exit earlier this month, they have so far negotiated a hectic schedule admirably - particularly since their relatively deep squad has returned closer to full availability. It has rarely been aesthetically pleasing, but the Nerazzurri have ground out an impressive sequence of domestic results.
After Inter's ninth game in a fixture sequence of effectively playing every three days, there remains one left to tackle before the much-anticipated winter break. Ahead of their tricky trip to Verona, coach Conte has called upon his weary charges to banish all thoughts of fatigue and promised fans to "grit our teeth and see it through".
A pair of soft penalty calls ultimately resulted in an away draw for Verona on Saturday afternoon as they were held by struggling Fiorentina.
Coming on the back of a disappointing midweek defeat to mid-table counterparts Sampdoria, the Gialloblu have slipped to ninth in the standings, though remain just a point behind top four-chasers Lazio and Atalanta and five clear of the bottom half.
Much of the aftermath of Verona's unexpected loss at Stadio Bentegodi - in which Samp stung them twice on the counter-attack - was dominated by an outburst from highly-rated coach Ivan Juric, who criticised the club's transfer policy amid an ongoing injury crisis.
The temperamental Croatian tactician was more circumspect after the draw in Florence, instead praising the efforts of his "fantastic" team in such trying times.
Perhaps the most significant absence for Verona has been marquee summer signing Nikola Kalinic, who arrived just as the season started but almost immediately picked up an injury, leaving his new side undermanned up front.
Certainly, with the fewest goals scored in the top half - 17 from 13 games - Hellas have missed the movement and finishing ability that the former Atletico Madrid man brings.
Nonetheless, Verona have lost only three of their league games so far - demonstrating a resilience that should stand them in good stead for in-form Inter's arrival on Wednesday.
The clubs' last meeting at the Bentegodi was in July, when skipper Miguel Veloso's late equaliser secured a 2-2 draw for the Gialloblu. For Ivan Juric and company, a repeat scoreline to close out the year would be warmly welcomed.
Hellas Verona Serie A form: LWDWLD
Hellas Verona form (all competitions): LWDWLD
Inter Milan Serie A form: WWWWWW
Inter Milan form (all competitions): WWDWWW
Antonio Conte must choose between Stefano Sensi and Arturo Vidal to deploy alongside Marcelo Brozovic - who started at the weekend despite being doubtful before kickoff - and Nicolo Barella in his familiar 3-5-2.
Ashley Young and Achraf Hakimi may continue on the wings, but Matteo Darmian and Ivan Perisic stand ready to deputise. Lautaro Martinez starts alongside Romelu Lukaku as Alexis Sanchez remains out injured.
Home boss Ivan Juric still has doubts over Samuel Di Carmine, so Eddie Salcedo should start again as the lone striker in a 3-4-2-1 setup.
In addition to the absences of Marco Benassi, star signing Nikola Kalinic and former Leeds United midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, Verona will also have to do without the suspended Antonin Barak, who was sent off against Sampdoria and subsequently banned for three games due to violent conduct.
Hellas Verona possible starting lineup:
Silvestri; Ceccherini, Gunter, Lovato; Faraoni, Tameze, Veloso, Dimarco; Zaccagni, Lazovic; Salcedo
Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Young; Lukaku, Martinez
Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea