Premier League

Watson closing on Wigan return

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Thu, 28 Feb 2013 11:30:00

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has put thoughts of the Copa del Rey final showdown with Real Madrid on hold for now.

The Rojiblancos secured their place in the cup showpiece for the second time in four years after progressing through 4-3 on aggregate following two incident-packed semi-final legs against Sevilla.

After establishing a 2-1 lead following a first leg that included three penalties and three red cards, Atletico finished the job at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Wednesday night in an encounter that finished 2-2 and saw Sevilla once again have two players sent off.

That success set up a mouthwatering final clash with arch-rivals Real - a side Atletico have not beaten in over 13 years - in May, but Simeone was reluctant to talk too much about that match at this point.

The Argentinian, whose side face fellow high-flyers Malaga in La Liga on Sunday, said: "Regarding the final, the only thing that we're thinking about is the happiness of being back in a very important final.

"Talking about Madrid now would be a lack of respect to Sevilla.

"We need to talk about how we've played, Falcao, Diego Costa, Miranda, Cata Diaz....

"Tomorrow (Thursday) we will think about Malaga, who are a direct and difficult rival."

While Simeone was unwilling to look ahead to the final derby, he knows it will be a different story for the Atletico fans.

As the supporters celebrate, though, Simone hopes they will spare a though for some of the club's unsung heroes this season.

Simeone said: "The Atletico Madrid fans will be happy.

"They will get up in the morning and will have a very important final to look forward to. It will be a difficult game but they will be full of joy to see their team fighting for second place in such a competitive league and once again finding themselves in the final.

"This says very good things about the players, about the efforts they are making, and also the people who are not seen, such as the physios, the medical staff, the assistants...

"It is a victory for everyone because without the work of the people who you don't see, it's impossible that these guys are in this form."

Lewandowski's current deal at Dortmund does not expire until June 2014, but his agent revealed earlier this week that the Poland international has already decided on his next destination.

The 24-year-old has been linked with potential moves to Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Juventus.

"Robert Lewandowski is not going to sign a new contract. We will have to see if he is going to be on the move in the summer," Borussia Dortmund director Michael Zorc told German Sky.

"His contract runs until 2014. There are two options. Either he goes in June or he stays for another year."

Lewandowski has bagged 44 goals in 87 appearances for the German club, helping them to two consecutive Bundesliga titles since his transfer from Lech Poznan in 2010.

Lord Nimmo Smith chaired the three-man panel which was appointed to decide if the company that formerly ran the club broke SPL rules regarding the payment of employees.

The club won five SPL titles during the decade in question, but Sky sources understand those pennants are not under threat, although the final verdict of the commission is still awaited later on Thursday.

The probe related to the period between 2000-2011 during which Rangers operated employee benefits trusts.

HM Revenue and Customs had claimed the scheme, which was used to make payments to players and staff in the form of tax-free loans, was illegal.

Rangers disputed this and a First Tier Tax Tribunal ruled last November that the scheme did not breach tax law, although HMRC have appealed that initial verdict to an Upper Tier Tax Tribunal.

The central defender, 19, has been a virtual ever-present for the Blades this season and reached the landmark in Tuesday night's goalless draw with Leyton Orient, a week before his 20th birthday.

Maguire is expected to make it 101 starts at Oldham this weekend and told the club's official website: "I have some fantastic memories of playing at Boundary Park. It was where I scored my first senior goal, so hopefully that is a good omen for Saturday."

Maguire made his first appearance for the Blades as a second-half substitute in a home match against Cardiff in April 2011, when he was only 17, and was voted man of the match after making his full debut four days later at Preston.

There were fears Watson could be out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg in an innocuous challenge with Raheem Sterling in the defeat at Liverpool last November.

But the 27-year-old did not require surgery and the speed of his recovery has given Martinez a lift as they continue their battle against relegation from the Premier League.

Martinez said: "He is already on the grass, and that is something we didn't expect until probably the end of March.

"I will be very surprised if he doesn't get at least one or two games before the season finishes.

"That is very encouraging and it shows a lot from Ben - how he has been acting on a daily basis and how professional he has been in his recovery.

"It is a real good boost for everyone to see his smiling face around the training ground and he is looking forward to just being on the pitch, which is a refreshing attitude."

Wigan were beaten 3-0 at Anfield on the day Watson suffered his injury and face the Reds again at the DW Stadium this weekend.

Martinez said: "It was sad to look back at what happened at Anfield.

"It was a very unfortunate incident that nine times out of 10 wouldn't bring a major fracture.

"It was a disappointing moment but now, as we play the return fixture, we see all the positive vibes from Ben that he is going to be hopefully fully fit before the end of the season."

Wigan hope left-back Maynor Figueroa can overcome the effects of a bad tackle by Reading's Pavel Pogrebnyak to feature against Liverpool.

Figueroa was on target as Wigan won 3-0 at the Madejski Stadium to move out of the relegation zone, but he was also on the end of a challenge that saw Pogrebnyak sent off.

Martinez said: "Maynor was very fortunate. He ankle has been affected but it wasn't a rupture or a major injury in his ligaments.

"It was a little bit higher than a broken ankle.

"He has got the stud marks and he hasn't been able to train yet.

"We will assess him over the next 48 hours and see where he is for the weekend."

There has been speculation over Figueroa's future at Wigan, with the Honduras international out of contract at the end of the season.

West Ham have been linked with the 29-year-old but, while he accepts other clubs might be interested, Martinez does not want to comment on the situation.

The Spaniard said: "I am not surprised. When you are a defender who can come up with the type of goal he came up with on Saturday, you can get the type of compliments he gets behind closed doors outside.

"But I don't expect teams to talk about players who are under contract and I would never speak about players of other teams under contract at this stage of the season.

"I don't think this is the right time to do it."

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