SL: Problems won’t affect Jambos

Manchester United striker Federico Macheda will not be joining

Blackpool or Hull City in January and is instead likely to make a

loan move to Spain or Germany.

The 21-year-old has made just three substitute appearances in

all competitions this season amid the strong attacking options from

which boss Sir Alex Ferguson can select.

United have preferred to use Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie,

Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez which has meant Macheda is

likely to leave on another temporary deal.

Blackpool and Hull have both been linked with the former

Sampdoria and Queens Park Rangers loanee but his agent has revealed

Germany or Spain are more likely destinations.

Macheda’s representative, Giovanni Bia, told claciomercato.it:

“Federico obviously wants to play more and also Manchester United

agree to let him go.

“Blackpool and Hull City? No, he definitely won’t go to one of

them. We’re talking with two or three clubs in Spain and German,

which I don’t want to name.”

The Highlanders had failed to win any of their first seven

Clydesdale Bank Premier League games and were languishing

second-bottom when Dundee United visited Tulloch Caledonian Stadium

at the end of September.

A shock 4-0 win for the home side, thanks to a first-half double

by skipper Richie Foran and goals after the break by Andrew Shinnie

and Philip Roberts, stopped the rot.

Inverness have since lost only one game in 16 and, as well as

climbing to second in the SPL behind Celtic, have booked a Scottish

Communities League Cup semi-final clash against Hearts and reached

the latter stages of the William Hill Scottish Cup.

Butcher recalls the day when his side’s fortunes turned.

He said: “Dundee United started off the game pretty well and for

the first half an hour it was nip and tuck and then all of a sudden

Richie scored two goals that have us a good half-time lead and we

were able to build on that in the second half and run out 4-0

winners.

“We actually played well in the first seven games and had five

points but hadn’t had a win.

“We played well in some of those draws and were unlucky not to

get the first victory but when the first win did come against

United it certainly lifted everybody.

“It made everybody more confident, we had more belief and we

knew that we were on the right track.

“We had a couple of wins right away after that and we zoomed up

the table and we haven’t looked back since then.

“So it might have been the turning point, the spark that we

needed, but it was certainly welcome.

“It is nice to be able to play them again and it does whet the

appetite.”

Butcher, who has no fresh injuries following the win over the

Staggies, is looking to give his far-travelled fans more to cheer

about with another win.

The former Motherwell boss said: “I have a good relationship

with my away fans and I am looking forward to seeing them because

they are just phenomenal.

“They are so noisy and get behind the team.

“Man for man, I don’t think there is a noisier away crowd so we

are really pleased with the support we get from the away fans and

it has been nice to reward them with some good away victories and

points.”

But Hammell hopes pushing for another European adventure could

help retain some of the players who are out of contract at the end

of the season.

Motherwell were denied a fifth-round trip to face Hibernian at

Easter Road, where they play tomorrow on Clydesdale Bank Premier

League duty, and the chance to emulate their run to the final in

2011 when they lost 2-1 in a Fir Park replay on Tuesday.

The financial blow has given manager Stuart McCall less chance

of holding on to the likes of Nicky Law, Darren Randolph and Jamie

Murphy in the long term.

Hammell said: “I don’t think it heaped pressure on us but we

were aware of it.

“It’s well documented, the gaffer even came out and said it, a

cup run would help financially to keep some of the boys.

“I think that was another reason why it was disappointing to go

out the cup, because I think this will be the last season that this

group of players will be together.

“It’s a strong group, one of the best teams I’ve played with,

and at the end of this season, or maybe even sooner, that team

might not be together, so it would have been nice to finish with a

trip to Hampden. But it wasn’t to be.

“I’m sure there will be some offers because of how well we have

been doing, that’s just the nature of how things are.

“If teams come looking from England, they will be able to offer

bigger financial rewards.

“It will be a sad day if we lose a lot of these boys but

hopefully we can keep most of the squad together and the gaffer has

been able to bring in some real gems before.”

Murphy turned down a move to Blackpool on the last day of this

year’s January transfer window in order to help Motherwell secure

third place in the SPL and the Champions League qualifying spot

that came with it.

And Hammell hopes a similar push can lift the gloom of the cup

defeat.

“Hopefully the boys will not rush into any decisions in January,

a lot of the deals usually take place at the last minute,” he

said.

“If they can stay at least until the end of the season, that

would be a great boost for everyone.

“We’ve got to put that disappointment behind us now and look to

bounce back against Hibs.

“There are European places up for grabs and we are confident we

can show everyone we deserve to be there.

“We would like to get there and put the disappointment of going

out the cup early behind us.”

The Swede revealed many of his countrymen were less than

impressed by Neil Lennon’s side in the first leg of their play-off

despite the visitors to Helsingborg emerging with a 2-0 lead that

they doubled in the return at Parkhead.

The Scottish champions went on to qualify from Group G as

runners-up to Barcelona following an impressive campaign which

included a famous win over the Catalan giants, and are now looking

forward to next Thursday’s last-16 draw.

Lustig, who is hoping to see Celtic paired with boyhood

favourites Juventus, was at Celtic Park to preview Saturday’s

Scottish Premier League clash with St Mirren but he looked back

with satisfaction at the way the club’s European sceptics had been

silenced.

He said: “(The reaction in Sweden to us qualifying) has been

quite massive.

“When we reached the Champions League a lot of the media in

Sweden said that Celtic is probably the team that shouldn’t be in

the Champions League because they saw the first leg against

Helsingborg and they weren’t much impressed with that.

“Over two legs I think we were the stronger team but the first

half in Helsingborg was really bad.

“Now they have seen that we are a really good team and work good

together.”

Asked about his childhood passion for Juve, the 26-year-old

full-back added: “I was a big Juventus fan when I was growing up

but I don’t know why.

“I don’t think they are going to win the Champions League but

they are obviously the best team in Italy right now and they should

be disappointed if they don’t reach the semi-final.

“We are going to be underdogs whoever we get, although on paper

Malaga could be a good draw for us.

“We were probably underdogs in every group game and we handled

that pressure quite well.”

Lustig claimed to be unaware of reports that Russian outfit

Rubin Kazan are preparing a January bid for him, but he believes

most Celtic players would resist the temptation to move in

January.

“I think every player will want to play in the last 16,” he

said.

“It has been a long journey to reach that goal and now we are

here I think all of the players would like to stay.”

Lennon is trying to get his players to re-focus on domestic

chores with Celtic, despite being three points clear at the top of

the SPL, looking for their first home league win since October

7.

Looking ahead to the match with St Mirren, Lustig said: “Of

course you think a lot about Champions League games so now it is

nice to focus on the SPL.

“We have struggled a little bit, especially at home. It is hard

to say why but we have some problems when teams come here just to

defend.

“We have to find the key to break them down but hopefully we can

do that tomorrow.”

The former Liverpool and Blackburn player originally moved to

Elland Road on a non-contract basis in the summer before signing a

deal until January.

United manager Neil Warnock has been delighted with Diouf’s

influence on the pitch, where he has scored five goals since his

arrival.

The 31-year-old is now contracted to the West Yorkshire giants

until the end of the summer of 2014.

Warnock said: “We’re delighted he’s agreed everything and

hopefully he’ll enjoy the next 18 months with us.

“Obviously it’s a massive boost for everyone to know we’re going

to have him around, and this is what we’ve wanted to do.

“He’s a match-winning player, and there aren’t many of them

around. He’s a player who can change a game and I’m delighted we’ve

been able to keep him. He’s also fitted in really well, and he’s

been great with the lads.”

The Gorgie club are battling against a cash crisis and recently

averted a winding-up order after paying Her Majesty’s Revenue and

Customs a ?450,000 bill, while also settling another issue with the

tax authority by agreeing to pay ?1.5million over three years.

The Hearts players deferred their wages last month – which are

now up to date – but although more than ?800,000 has been raised by

a share issue scheme launched in October, it is short of the

?1.79million target and director Sergejus Fedotovas has warned of

tough times ahead.

Lomas believes all that turmoil will be “irrelevant” to the

Jambos’ players when the game begins.

“I don’t think it will have an effect on them, they have been

through it all before,” said the Northern Irishman. “Hearts players

have played when they have had no wages, they have always been

professional.

“The game is played on the pitch. Once you step over that white

line everything is forgotten about. Everything else is

irrelevant.

“You are there to do a job and they will want to prove a point,

they will be wanting to win a game of football.

“So it is going to be tough. They are a side jam-packed with

good players like Ryan McGowan and John Sutton so we will have to

work hard and play well to get something from the game.”

Lomas does not have his own problems to seek this week.

The Perth boss will ask David McCracken if he is ready to return

early from his fractured cheekbone as Saints face an injury crisis

in defence.

Defenders Steven Anderson, Frazer Wright

and skipper Dave Mackay are suspended while midfielder Chris

Millar is also banned after being red carded in the 1-1 draw

against St Mirren last week.

McCracken was expected to be out for six weeks after picking up

the injury which required surgery when he clashed heads with Celtic

midfielder Victor Wanyama during the 1-1 draw at Parkhead on

November 11.

Lomas, though, is heartened by the character his side showed

last week in battling for a draw against The Buddies.

The former Manchester City and West Ham midfielder said: “It

won’t be a makeshift side.

“It is now down to boys to come in and show what they can do.

That

is a challenge for all the players.

“It is an opportunity for players and if they come in and play

well then they keep the shirt.

“Last week the players showed me what I knew already, they have

great character.

“We played 20 minutes with nine men so away from home that has

got to be a great point and you have to be satisfied with that.

“As I said before on numerous occasions they are an honest

bunch, they have shown it from day one and the players who came in

during the summer have been the same.”