Serie A: Ronaldo again takes centre stage
ROME, Feb 22 (Reuters) - All eyes will once again be on Ronaldo when AC Milan host Sampdoria on Sunday (kickoff 1930 GMT).
The three-times World Player of the Year conjured up two goals and the pass that created Milan's third in the 4-3 win over Siena last weekend.
It was a performance that swept away any doubts that 'The Phenomenon' as he was known during his days at Inter was worth the 7.5million euros Milan paid Real Madrid for him in January.
'We all knew he was a great player. What came as such a big surprise to us was how quickly he has managed to slip back into the Italian championship,' said coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose team have won six of their last seven league matches to climb to sixth.
For the 30-year-old Brazilian striker, meanwhile, his display provided an eloquent riposte to those who had written him off as overweight and over-the-hill.
'I don't have to say anything to my critics. I'll just shut them up with what I do on the pitch,' he said.
He should have plenty of opportunities to impress between now and the end of the season.
With Filippo Inzaghi injured, Marco Borriello suspended after failing a drugs test, and Ricardo Oliveira and Alberto Gilardino dogged by inconsistency, competition for places in Milan's attack is not as fierce as it was when Andriy Shevchenko used to automatically claim a starting berth.
Leaders Inter, meanwhile, will seek to preserve their 14-point cushion at the top of the division by beating Catania on Sunday.
Inter have won their last 16 Serie A matches, but suffered a midweek hiccup when they conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 with Valencia in the Champions League.
Catania, who have lost four of their last six league games, look just the team to provide Inter with a much-needed psychological fillip.
As if the gulf in resources between the two clubs was not enough, the odds against Catania upsetting Inter have been stacked even higher by the ban on their Massimino stadium following the rioting in which a policeman died this month.
Sunday's game is taking place behind closed doors at the Manuzzi stadium in Cesena, 650 miles north of Catania and far enough away to deter even the most loyal fans from making the trip just to hang around outside the ground.
Inter's nearest challengers, AS Roma, face a tough home game against Reggina, who beat them 1-0 earlier in the season.
Third-placed Palermo have earned just four points from their last four games and need a win against Atalanta on Saturday to consolidate their position.