News of all that's transpired on and off the football field
Serie A leading pair Napoli and Juventus both won against stubborn opponents from the lower half of the table on Saturday while faltering AS Roma lost at home to Atalanta and Ciro Immobile scored four goals in Lazio's 5-2 rout of SPAL.
Napoli took over an hour to break through against next-to-bottom Verona before winning 2-0 and Federico Bernardeschi's second-half goal gave Juve a 1-0 win at Cagliari in a bruising match which saw the Turin side lose Paulo Dybala to injury.
Elsewhere, bottom club Benevento, who failed to win in their first 18 games, made it two in a row by beating Sampdoria 3-2 while Torino's new coach Walter Mazzarri enjoyed a winning start as they beat Bologna 3-0.
Napoli, aiming to stop Juventus' run of six successive titles, lead with 51 points from 20 games with Juve one point behind as the league heads into a two-week break.
Inter Milan, winless in their last five league games after Friday's 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, are third on 42 points while Lazio moved up to fourth (40) ahead of Roma (39).
Napoli breached stubborn Verona after 65 minutes when Kalidou Koulibaly headed in from a corner and Jose Callejon volleyed home Lorenzo Insigne's cross.
Dybala and Bernardeschi both hit the woodwork for Juventus in the first half while Wojciech Szczesny denied Cagliari with two stunning saves.
Dybala limped off with a possible thigh strain in the second half. Eventually, though, Douglas Costa beat two defenders on the right and sent over a low cross which Bernardeschi turned in from close range.
Immobile took his tally to 20 in the league with his haul against SPAL, scoring a hat-trick of opportunist goals between the 19th and 41st minutes and adding another five minutes into the second half.
Juventus's Matuidi says he was racially abused at Cagliari
Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi says he was the subject of racial abuse during their 1-0 win at Cagliari on Saturday, days after fellow Serie A side Verona were reprimanded after their supporters directed similar abuse towards the Frenchman.
Verona were handed a fine and a suspended partial stadium ban after supporters racially abused the 30-year-old following his opening goal during Juventus's 3-1 away win on Dec. 30.
"Today I experienced racism during the match. Weak people try to intimidate with hate. I am not a hater and can only be sorry for those who set bad examples," Matuidi wrote on his official Facebook account after Saturday's game.
"Football is a way to spread equality, passion and inspiration and this is what I am here for. Peace."
Matuidi, who has 62 caps for France, joined Juventus before the start of the current season and has scored twice for the Italian champions.
Costa scores and sent off on Atletico return, Betis beat Sevilla
Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa scored on his home debut in a 2-0 win over Getafe and was immediately sent off for an over-zealous celebration as the former Chelsea striker marked a typically eventful return to La Liga on Saturday.
Real Betis beat fierce city rivals Sevilla for the first time in the league since 2012 by winning a thrilling derby 5-3 away from home as Vincenzo Montella lost his first game as a coach in La Liga.
Elsewhere, Valencia hit back from two straight defeats by coming from behind to beat Girona 2-1 and hold on to third place in the standings in coach Marcelino's first game back in the dugout after being involved in a serious car crash before Christmas.
Atletico are second on 39 points, six behind leaders Barcelona who host Levante on Sunday. Valencia are third with 37 while Real Madrid, who visit Celta Vigo on Sunday and have another game in hand, are fourth on 31.
Angel Correa had put Atletico ahead against Getafe in the 18th minute while Costa sent the fans in the Wanda Metropolitano stadium into delirium by scoring the second goal in the 67th, creating a mini-surge as supporters ran down to embrace their returning hero who also played for the club from 2010-2014.
Leaving the pitch to celebrate with the fans automatically incurs a booking and, as Costa had already been shown a yellow card for elbowing Djene Dakonam, referee Jose Luis Munuera Montero had no choice but to send him off.
Costa, who returned to Atletico from Chelsea for 57 million pounds ($77 million) in September but could not play until January due to a ban on the club registering new players, will be suspended for Atletico's next Liga game at Eibar.
The 29-year-old had scored his first goal in his second spell at Atletico in a 4-0 win at Lleida Esportiu in the King's Cup on Wednesday less than six minutes after coming on.