Juninho may not be fit for months

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The Independent Online

Juninho will miss the start of the new season with a cruciate ligament injury. The 29-year-old Brazilian damaged his left knee in Middlesbrough's friendly game with the Italian side Modena in Mantova on Saturday. His recovery may be a matter of months rather than weeks.

Juninho will miss the start of the new season with a cruciate ligament injury. The 29-year-old Brazilian damaged his left knee in Middlesbrough's friendly game with the Italian side Modena in Mantova on Saturday. His recovery may be a matter of months rather than weeks.

"It's too early to say how long he will be out for, but it's obviously a serious injury," said the Boro manager, Steve McClaren. "Juninho will see a specialist in the near future, after which we'll have a clearer idea about the extent of the injury."

The South American represents around £4m of the club's £19m summer spending, and a prolonged absence would be a major disappointment. He made his debut on his return to the club in the 3-2 friendly win over Alaves at the Riverside Stadium last Wednesday evening, scoring the first goal in a performance which suggested that Middlesbrough may have a more convincing season ahead of them.

McClaren has decided to stay on as part of Sven Goran Eriksson's England coaching team, he revealed yesterday. "I am certain it will make me a better coach and a better manager," he said, adding: "First and foremost I enjoy working with Sven. He gives me a lot of freedom within the framework he lays down. I feel totally involved, especially when it comes to preparing for the big games."

Leicester City's defender Jacob Laursen has emerged as a target for Boro. The Danish international joined the Foxes midway through last season from FC Copenhagen, having spent four years in the Premiership with Derby County. But he had an unhappy time and struggled to repeat that form and lost his place before ending the season on loan with Wolves. The 30-year-old upset his team-mates by criticising Leicester at the time of his temporary move.

Sunderland's troubled build-up to the new season continued as they lost 2-0 to Algeciras in Spain on Saturday. Niall Quinn and Kevin Kilbane had chances to put the Black Cats ahead in the first half but the match turned when three players were sent off after the break.

George McCartney was dismissed for a late tackle and Thomas Butler also received a red card along with the Algeciras player Espejo after the pair became involved in a fracas following a tackle.

Tonelloto then exploited the Spaniards' 10-9 player advantage, scoring with an 89th-minute curling shot and adding another soon after.

The Sunderland manager, Peter Reid, at least avoided more abuse from from irate supporters. He had returned home on a scouting mission, leaving Adrian Heath in charge.

The West Bromwich Albion manager, Gary Megson, paid the Nationwide Conference side Stevenage the compliment of fielding his strongest available team for Albion's final pre-season friendly on Saturday. Albion meet Manchester United at Old Trafford next Saturday on their Premiership debut.

Megson was rewarded with a 4-0 win over last season's losing FA Trophy finalists – and a solid debut from new £1.5m defender Sean Gregan. Danny Dichio opened the scoring after 33 minutes and Andy Johnson added another 10 minutes later. Bob Taylor hit the third nine minutes from time and Neil Clement finished matters off late on with a fierce 30-yard free-kick.

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