Football: Solano hoping to give Gullit a Cup boost

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THE NEWCASTLE midfielder, Nolberto Solano, is battling to reach fitness for Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final with Everton after picking up a knee injury. The 24-year-old Peruvian has not trained since injuring his knee during the 1-1 draw with Arsenal last Sunday.

"I picked up a knock on my knee and it is quite stiff and swollen," he said. "I haven't been able to train since but I'm hoping to be back at the end of the week."

Solano has found himself a regular place on the right side of the Newcastle midfield since his summer move from the Argentinian side Boca Juniors.

He has quickly adapted to the pace of the Premiership and has scored four goals, including the winner at Leeds a month ago. More importantly, he has helped provide striker Alan Shearer with the kind of service he missed for so long.

But while the little South American has a chance of being fit at the weekend, Steve Glass is out. The 22-year-old suffered a knee injury in the 4-1 win over Coventry on 17 February and was initially expected to be out of action for 10 days.

But his manager, Ruud Gullit, has confirmed the setback. "He will start training next week. The knock caused bruising and that takes time. He won't be involved on Sunday."

The former Everton striker, Duncan Ferguson, is also not in contention. The 27-year-old is due to start working with a personal trainer, Paul Winsper, next week and his return is still some way off. In spite of the absence of Glass, Ferguson and the suspended Gary Speed, Gullit is continuing to look on the bright side.

"We have already had a lot of times like this," he said. "We had Shearer out, Didier Domi out, Nicos Dabizas out... it happens. It's part of the game and you have to deal with it.

"The players are happier than they were. It took time for them to adapt to a new regime and what we wanted to achieve.

"But now they're playing better and all of a sudden their confidence is back and there's competition between them."

Meanwhile, Gullit has granted keeper Lionel Perez's transfer request and is waiting for a move to be finalised.

The Frenchman, who has been ousted as Shay Given's No 2 by Steve Harper, appeared set to join Lyon but returned without signing for them.

Perez arrived at Newcastle on a free transfer from Sunderland under former boss Kenny Dalglish during the summer.