Premier League

Fernandes still keen on Barton

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Wed, 01 May 2013 19:01:00

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is confident his side can progress to the Europa League final when they face Fenerbahce on Thursday night.

The Portuguese league leaders trail 1-0 from the first leg in Turkey thanks to Egemen Korkmaz's goal and are fortunate not to be further behind after being dominated for large parts of the match at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.

The hosts hit the woodwork three times, including once from the penalty spot, as they looked to put the tie to bed, but Jesus' men held on to a one-goal deficit and the coach is confident that they can make it to the final in Amsterdam.

"It is a result that is dangerous but also gives confidence that we can turn it around," he told a press conference.

"We have some experience of these matches in the Europa League and the Champions League so we are calm.

"We will not change anything that we have done throughout this Europa League campaign. We trust and hope that the fans will also help us."

The Turkish side have a formidable record away from home in this season's competition and have yet to taste defeat, while they claimed an impressive win in Marseille in the group stages.

They also held Lazio to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico in the second leg of their quarter-final, but Barcelona are the only visitors to have claimed a win at the Estadio da Luz this season and Jesus believes that could be key.

The Benfiquistas were in league action on Monday night against Maritimo and are facing a hectic end to the season with three league matches and a Portuguese Cup final to come as they try to complete a remarkable treble.

But striker Oscar Cardozo, who has scored 54 goals in 77 matches for the Eagles, does not believe that fatigue will be factor.

"We're fine," he added. "We have had many games but we feel good for tomorrow and I think we will all be 100%."

While Jesus may have a fully fit squad to choose on Thursday night, the coach will be without Dutch midfielder Ola John who received a yellow card in the first leg and is suspended.

The visitors will be without midfielder Mehmet Topal and striker Pierre Webo, who are both suspended, while ex-Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles is injured.

Former Tranmere defender McChrystal put pen to paper on a new two-year contract with Rovers on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old initially joined on a short-term deal following his release from Prenton Park.

"We are delighted that Mark has committed himself to the club," McGhee told his club's official website. "We are aiming to try and improve things here, and he is an important part of the jigsaw.

"He has been part of the stable back four that have been playing together in recent months, and we are also talking to Steve Mildenhall.

"We are a young squad, and Mark gives us that seniority and experience, and I am sure Tom Parkes would be the first person to say he has benefited from playing alongside Mark."

Chairman Nick Higgs added: "We are delighted that Mark has decided to sign a new deal with us.

"He is an experienced player, who made an instant impact when he joined the club at the turn of the year.

"He helped shore up our defence, and was one of the pivotal players in turning our season around.

"We hope that his experience will help us next year as we look to push for promotion."

Having disposed of Torquay in the semi-finals, the Robins walked out at Wembley for a League Two final which they lost 2-0 to Crewe.

And Yates hopes that will stand them in good stead this time around as they prepare for a semi-final first leg against Northampton at Sixfields on Thursday night.

"Last year's experience will hopefully have done us some good," he said. "We can prepare and plan properly for this and draw on our experience from that but it's essentially a different group, a different team, against different opposition.

"It's just how you handle it. People say it's a lottery but we're in there with a chance and we're not looking beyond Thursday at this moment in time."

Cheltenham won both league meetings against the Cobblers this season, 3-2 at home and 1-0 at Whaddon Road, but Yates admits they will count for nothing ahead of their play-off encounters.

"We had two positive results against them and they were very tough games that could have gone either way, but we deserved to win both games," he said.

"But nothing in the past will influence Thursday night or Sunday. It will just be about making sure we turn up and perform well."

Barton is currently enjoying his loan spell at Marseille, but was quick to criticise his former team-mates following the Hoop's relegation on Sunday afternoon, describing some members of the squad as "maggots" and "w******" shortly after the team's 0-0 draw at Reading.

The 30-year-old - who was banned for 12 matches and fined ?75,000 by the Football Association for his behaviour in the defeat on the final day of last season at Manchester City - revealed it would be tough to leave the French club.

However, Fernandes insists unless a transfer fee can be agreed, then Barton, signed from Newcastle on a free in August 2011, would be expected back at pre-season training.

"Marseille have got to put an offer in. Joey is under contract and Joey would be a very useful player for Queens Park Rangers," Fernandes said on QPR Player.

"He helped Newcastle out (of the Championship). Some would say we lacked his fighting spirit in the midfield.

"But if Joey and Marseille want (the transfer), then we will talk.

"However, he is a QPR player, and is contracted to QPR.

"That has to be a financial deal which would have to be worked out if he wants to go to Marseille, but as far as I am concerned he is a QPR player and in the summer will come back."

Harry Redknapp is set to remain in charge next season, despite failing to guide the club to safety after taking over from Mark Hughes last November.

The former Tottenham manager brought in the likes of striker Loic Remy and defender Christopher Samba on big-money transfers during the January window.

While both players are probably unlikely to be part of the Hoops' fight to regain their top-flight status, Fernandes remains optimistic the west London club will have a squad capable of mounting a sustained promotion challenge.

"We have been through it. There are many players we want to keep, some players we think don't want to stay and some players who are going to move on, but it is not insurmountable," the Malaysian businessman said.

"I am a positive person. People would say I am not realistic, but if you go through player by player, we will sort them out.

"You are not going to sort out everyone, there will be some...but I think every football club in England has players that they would rather not be there, but that is a function of the game.

"I don't think we are going to be in a bad position from that, we will come out okay."

Fernandes added: "We had a very good discussion. Harry has been very pragmatic, as have the shareholders.

"There are some players we really want to keep and we will do our best to keep them, and I think we will.

"Everything else is really Harry's call and the players'."

Hughes just managed to keep QPR up last season, and the club then moved to bankroll the purchase of men such as Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa, and Park Ji-sung last summer - all on big pay packets.

Fernandes accepts mistakes were made in the pursuit of sustained success, but insists a plan for long-term stability is now in place.

"We are in a position now we can trade, which we were never able to do because we were just buying, buying and buying," he said.

"We inherited a club which was in pretty poor shape, no training ground, a stadium which is clearly too small and a squad which really was not up to the Premier League.

"Much can be said about the buying process, but no-one can say we should have kept the squad as is.

"You could question some of the buys, but at the time you have to go with what the management says is good.

"I don't want to say it was anarchy and that just anyone came (here).

"We did not spend a lot in terms of transfer fees, which everyone fails to look at, apart from in the last transfer window when we brought Remy and Samba.

"There is a wage we are comfortable with now, how long we sign a player for and the wages we are looking at, that we have cleared up over the last few months."

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