Buffon tipped to return for Juve

ROME - Gianluigi Buffon should return for Juventus against Cagliari on Sunday to boost their flagging Champions League hopes as the Turin club's poor form and media silence continues.

The Turin side stopped speaking to reporters after suffering their 12th defeat in Serie A this term when they were blown away 3-0 at Udinese last weekend, having already been dumped from the Italian Cup and both European competitions.

It is their darkest period since relegation for their role in the 2006 match-fixing scandal and the fact that they remain in the running for Italy's fourth and final Champions League slot is mainly thanks to their rivals' ineptitude.

The lie seventh with 48 points with six games to go, one point and place behind Napoli and three behind Sampdoria and Palermo, who share fourth.

The players are under fire for not performing but the club's management are taking most of the flak for a long series of decisions that have not worked out.

These include disappointing signings such as Brazilian duo Diego and Felipe Melo and the sacking of coach Claudio Ranieri, who has put AS Roma in with a fine chance of winning the title.

Rookie Ciro Ferrara replaced Ranieri near the end of last season but was not up to the job and Alberto Zaccheroni has not improved things since taking over in January.

"As a fan I can only be bitter, disappointed and angry," Agnelli family heir John Elkann, who owns part of the club, told reporters recently. "There is a lack of grit at all levels."

Mohamed Sissoko is suspended for the home match but Buffon should be back after missing six weeks with a thigh problem as Juve seek to stop a miserable season becoming a total failure by clinching a place in the Champion League.

Leaders Inter Milan will be upbeat for Saturday's visit to Fiorentina after completing a 2-0 aggregate win over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday to set up a meeting with holders Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.

Roma, who have 65 points in second, just one less than Inter, face relegation-threatened Atalanta Bergamo at home on Sunday.

Third-placed AC Milan, who are three points behind Inter, take on Catania at the San Siro at the same time on Sunday.

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