Del Neri expects January return for Buffon
© AFP

Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri said today he expects goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to return from injury in January.

Italy No1 Buffon is recovering from a back operation after suffering a herniated disc during the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa in June.

His failure to appear at the club's training ground Vinovo yesterday for the team photo led some to speculate that he will be leaving the club in January. Buffon later explained that he was at an award ceremony.

"He's working to recover, he's busy overcoming his injury. He wasn't the only one missing so let's not make a huge drama," said Del Neri, who admitted however that Buffon has not come to Vinovo for months.

I've spoken to him on the phone, he's recovering, he needs time but we hope to have him in January.
Luigi Del Neri on Gianluigi Buffon

"Maybe he could have come occasionally. Maybe he wasn't aware of his absence but we were. I hope he'll come and lend a hand in this tough time with many injuries. I've spoken to him on the phone, he's recovering, he needs time but we hope to have him in January."

Juve have been hit by a spate of injuries, particularly in defence, leaving them with only one fit first-team centre-back. It means young Danish centre-back Frederik Sorensen will make his debut alongside Leonardo Bonucci against Cesena.

And veteran full-back Fabio Grosso, who has been frozen out of the first-team picture all season, will also start. Grosso was persona non grata at Juve after refusing a transfer away from the club in the summer, meaning he was excluded from the first team. But now Juve need him.

"You don't have to be Einstein to understand that Grosso will play, even my granddaughter Giulia understands that," said Del Neri ironically. "It's the same for Sorensen who's a great player, he's doing very well in the youth team.

"We have faith in our youngest players and we're convinced that in the right way and at the right time, they can give us a big helping hand."