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Beattie's Magpies trial ends

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Tue, 22 Jan 2013 11:34:00

Barcelona will look to ensure their recent blip does not develop into something more serious when they take on Malaga in the second leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie on Thursday.

Barca started the season in record-breaking fashion, winning 27 of their opening 31 matches in all competitions as they established a huge lead at the top of the Primera Division as well as making comfortable progress in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

However, things have not gone so smoothly for the Catalan giants over the last week.

Last Wednesday they were held 2-2 at home by Malaga in the first leg of their cup quarter-final, while on Saturday they suffered their first league defeat of the season after going down 3-2 at Real Sociedad - having led 2-0 after 25 minutes.

While those setbacks may not be a major cause for concern, Barca know they will need to do better on Thursday or risk seeing the defence of their Copa del Rey title came to an end at La Rosaleda.

Midfielder Andres Iniesta said: "We're not thinking about being eliminated. We have to have the conviction that we're going to win in Malaga and be in the next round.

"Of course they could get through, we're playing against a team with great players, who are playing at home and have two away goals, but at no point have we thought about being knocked out."

If Barca do get through then it seems likely they will face arch rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

Madrid head into their second leg against Valencia on Wednesday boasting a 2-0 lead from last week's first meeting at the Bernabeu and also with morale sky-high following Sunday's 5-0 mauling of Los Che at the Mestalla.

To make matters worse for Valencia they will be without talismanic striker Roberto Soldado through injury, but defender Ricardo Costa has warned Madrid not to expect to have it so easy again.

"We have to win on Wednesday. We know that Real Madrid are going to be more relaxed and it's going to be a totally different game," he said.

"We have to use our heads, not like Sunday.

"It's going to be difficult to turn it round, but we must at least try to cause Real Madrid problems. We need to show our personality and not make the mistakes we did in the league. We have nothing to lose."

Madrid's neighbours Atletico also boast a 2-0 lead heading into their second leg against Real Betis on Thursday but the Primera Division high-flyers look set to be without star striker Radamel Falcao after he picked up a hamstring injury at the weekend.

Midfielder Koke is also wary of the threat posed by Betis, who are fourth in La Liga, saying: "They are showing their potential in the league. We're going there with humility and we hope to respond well to what will be a tough and difficult game in Seville."

The other quarter-final between Sevilla and Real Zaragoza is locked at 0-0 going into Wednesday's second leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The R's are in the midst of a revamp of their youth structure and recently released a number of players.

One of those has contacted the west Londoners, making an allegation of racist abuse against Langton.

QPR have confirmed the full-time coach has been suspended pending an internal investigation into the incident.

The 31-year-old was brought in from Marseille following the Hammers' promotion but has struggled with injury, making just five appearances in all competitions.

That lack of football has clearly left Diarra frustrated, leading him to tell L'Equipe he is ready to leave east London, saying: "I have wasted my time".

The France international claims he was sold false promises when he joined the club and that he has a non-existent relationship with manager Allardyce.

"He is obviously clear, without telling me, that he is not happy with he situation, which is understandable," the West Ham boss said.

"You get this all the time as a manager when you bring a player of his experience and calibre over from France.

"It hasn't quite worked out and he feels a little disgruntled in terms of playing more, this or that.

"It is a fact of life, whereas I look at the situation and play what I consider the best team and because of Alou's long-standing injury he has found it hard to adjust to what is needed in the Premier League.

"If he is unhappy, he just has to tell me what he wants to do and we'll see how we go from there.

"At the moment, yes, he contributed well but his frustrations he obviously wants to play more.

"We'll have that discussions and we'll make a decision after that on the future of Alou."

Jose Baxter has made Simpson's favoured number 10 role his own with a string a superb displays since moving to Boundary Park in the summer.

Yet the former Coventry and Huddersfield man remains a regular starter for Paul Dickov's side, often deployed in central midfield while also plugging gaps on the wings and leading the line.

"I think my best position is that number 10 role - the link between the forward line and midfield," Simpson said. "I've had a couple of knee injuries this year and Jose Baxter's been doing really well in that position.

"So I've found myself in central midfield more often than not and I actually played left midfield the other week.

"If I don't play as the number 10 I would prefer to be up front as the one above the number 10 - I feel that best suits my game apart from being in that role.

"But I'm more than happy to play in the centre of midfield. I started out as a youngster as a midfielder when I was at Norwich all those years ago.

"It's matter of wherever the manager wants to play me really. My versatility has sometimes been my downfall in the fact that a regular starting place has never been mine because as soon as there's an injury I'm shoved into a different position.

"But I've always looked at it as a positive. The manager can trust me to play in a number of different positions, which other players struggle to do."

Grandison has been managing the complaint over the last couple of weeks but was eventually forced off at half-time in Saturday's defeat at Swindon.

A leading hip specialist in London has now told him to rest in the short-term before a decision is made over the next course of action, with an operation not ruled out if the injury fails to improve.

Manager Graham Turner told Town's official website: "The diagnosis at the moment is he should have two weeks rest away from training and if it settles down they will inject it. But give it two weeks rest and see how it goes from there.

"The worst-case scenario is he'll need surgery which could keep him out for months rather than weeks, but we're hoping it will settle down with some rest. We've got the best people looking at him so it remains to be seen how long he's going to be out."

Turner continued: "It's a possibility it will be a month and then a return to training and it's then probably another two weeks at least getting him fully match fit.

"I think the best-case scenario we're looking at is probably six weeks before he's fit but it's a problem he's got to manage now and we'll see over the next few weeks. I think that will be crucial."

And Turner has not ruled out turning to the transfer market to bring in another defender if needs be.

"If we lose somebody of Jermaine's stature there's thoughts that we need to bring somebody in," he added.

The striker has been injured and not played much football this season, making just two substitute appearances in the Scottish Premier League, and County boss Keith Curle has decided the 29-year-old is not fit enough.

However, Curle, who coached the player at Crystal Palace a few years ago, is an admirer and will continue to monitor his progress.

"He came down and we had a look at him in training, but he's not at the level of fitness where I was ready to offer him a loan deal," said Curle.

"I can't sign somebody on loan to get them fit. They have got to come straight in and make an impact. If I went to the chairman and said I want to bring in a player that has not played for three or four months he would say 'no', and rightly so.

"I told him he needs to go and get some games and get back to where he was before I can entertain the idea to bringing him here on loan."

Curle added: "I like Craig because I know what he was like a few years ago. He's lost a little bit of confidence because of his injury and he needs to get that back again.

"He needs to play some games, either in the first team or reserves at St Johnstone, and then we can look at it again."

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