Ranocchia set for Inter debut

MILAN - Brief news ahead of Thursday's Serie A matches.

New Inter Milan centre-back Andrea Ranocchia could make his debut when the champions host second-placed Napoli as Serie A gets back under way after the mid-season break.

The Italy defender has been brought in from Genoa on a contract until 2015 and could slip straight into the team alongside Lucio with Walter Samuel out for the season and Ivan Cordoba and Marco Materazzi failing to convince.

New coach Leonardo is set to be without goalkeeper Julio Cesar for his first match in charge after the fellow Brazilian suffered a thigh strain so Luca Castellazzi will again deputise.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is fit for the first time since injuring his back at the World Cup but is unlikely to be risked in the home game with his ex-side Parma.

Stand-in Marco Storari has been in such good form between the sticks that coach Luigi Del Neri has said Buffon faces a battle to regain his first team place, sparking speculation fourth-placed Juve could listen to offers.

Centre-back Leonardo Bonucci misses out though suspension while striker Vincenzo Iaquinta has a thigh problem so Alessandro Del Piero may come into the team given Amauri is only just back in training after a long layoff.

Leaders AC Milan are struggling for numbers for the trip to coach Massimiliano Allegri's old side Cagliari.

Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended, Ronaldinho is in Brazil trying to find a new club, Gianluca Zambrotta needs minor knee surgery while Kevin Prince Boateng is a doubt with an adductor injury.

Robinho looks set to be fit despite needing stitches in his leg after colliding with a television camera in this week's friendly in Dubai.

Alexandre Pato is back after a two-month layoff and new signing Antonio Cassano may feature despite not having played since October when former side Sampdoria suspended him for abusive behaviour.

Cagliari and Italy goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, dropped at the start of the season for asking for a transfer, remains third-choice after a hearing into his discrimination case again the Sardinians was again postponed.

Lazio in third travel to Genoa with wily coach Edy Reja, credited by club president Claudio Lotito for their rejuvenation, banned from the dugout after being sent to stands for arguing with officials in the 3-2 win over Udinese before Christmas.

Sampdoria face a race against time to fully register loan signing Federico Macheda from Manchester United so the striker can play at Palermo.