MILAN - Juventus have all but given up hope of catching Inter Milan despite being able to cut the gap at the top to seven points if they beat the Serie A leaders on Saturday. Just a few weeks ago the clash between the top two, already Italy's fiercest rivals, was being viewed as a potential title decider but a wobble from Juve has all but ended the race.
Claudio Ranieri's side drew 3-3 at home with Chievo before losing 3-2 at fourth-placed Genoa last Saturday.
Even if Inter lose in Turin, the chances of Jose Mourinho's side letting a seven-point advantage slip with just six games left are very remote.
"We've been liquified. Inter deserve to be where they are," Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon told Mediaset television.
"Still, on Saturday we want to win to give joy to the fans and to us. To finish second four or five points adrift is better than 10 or 12," he added, echoing defeatist comments from captain Alessandro Del Piero.
If Inter win, as they did 1-0 at the San Siro in November, they will seal their fourth straight title with a victory at Napoli on April 26 if Juve fail to win that weekend and AC Milan manage no more than two points from their next two games.
A big reason for Inter's form in Mourinho's first season in charge has been the top displays of Brazil keeper Julio Cesar. He skipped last weekend's 2-2 draw with Palermo with a groin strain but is battling to be fit for Saturday.
Buffon, who missed most of the first half of the season with injury, has been shaky of late and Cesar has possibly overtaken him as the world's number one.
Italian media have speculated that Juve could even consider selling Buffon in the close season to fund three new signings.
Ranieri is expected to introduce three new faces for Saturday's match, given midfielders Mauro Camoranesi and Claudio Marchisio are banned while striker Amauri looks an unlikely starter after being out for a month with a thigh injury.
Milan, with speculation continuing to swirl around coach Carlo Ancelotti despite his denials that he is leaving, can leapfrog Juve into second if their rivals lose and they beat Torino at home on Sunday.
Third-bottom Bologna face a tricky trip to Palermo on Sunday in Giuseppe Papadopulo's first game since replacing Sinisa Mihajlovic.comments