Big Sam set for Diarra dialogue
Tue, 22 Jan 2013 11:31:00
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."