The Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew, insisted yesterday that there is no rift with his striker Demba Ba.
The Senegal international expressed his displeasure at only being named among the substitutes for Monday night's 2-2 Premier League draw at Everton, having responded in fine style by coming off the bench to score both his side's goals.
His agent Alex Gontran caused consternation on Tyneside when he suggested the following day that Ba might have to consider his options if he found himself sitting on the bench too often in the future.
Newcastle face the Portuguese side Maritimo in the Europa League tonight without the rested Ba, or compatriot Papiss Cissé, who was a late withdrawal through illness. And ahead of the fixture, Pardew responded to speculation: "That's just people needing to say things they shouldn't say, really, but it doesn't really affect me and Demba. We have got a good relationship."
Liverpool are also in action in the competition tonight against Young Boys and the Swiss side's coach, Martin Rueda, has warned his opponents that they have taken a risk bringing an under-strength squad to Switzerland.
The Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, admits he is protecting key players like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez ahead of Sunday's visit of Manchester United.
But Rueda warned: "I don't think they can afford to turn up without their best players, especially since they did not shine in the early season... That makes me say that we are not far from them. We can embarrass Liverpool."