Robson looks to add some inspiration to perspiration

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The Independent Online

Sir Bobby Robson has admitted that his Newcastle side need to rediscover their fluency if they are to make progress in Europethis season.

Sir Bobby Robson has admitted that his Newcastle side need to rediscover their fluency if they are to make progress in Europethis season.

United have lost two of the last 20 games they have played in all competitions, but at times have found the going tough and have had to grind out results to climb into the top four in the Premiership and maintain their interest in the Uefa Cup.

Robson's men continue their European campaign with the first leg of their Uefa Cup fourth round tie with Real Mallorca at St James' Park tonight, and while the 71-year-old knows that they have not been in top form recently, he is confident the foundation is there and that there is much more to come.

"We're aware that we're not playing some of our football as well as we did last year," Robson said. I heard some ridiculous comments the other day about we'd played about one minute of football this season, which is too ridiculous for words.

"But we haven't, I suppose, played in some games as fluently as we did many times last season. We're aware of that. We don't keep the ball as well as we did last season, lose it too easily, therefore we're not building up enough attacks.

"We're giving the other side a chance to get into the game more than we did last year, and yet we're still difficult to beat, to be honest, and we are fourth.

"As long as we keep that philosophy of being difficult to beat and improve our quality of play we can do all sorts of things, we'll be all right."

Robson was handed a triple injury fillipwith Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer and Darren Ambrose all declaring themselves fit, although the manager is unlikely to risk all three.

Martin O'Neill warned his depleted Celtic side they would face a "big ask" to beat Barcelona even if they were at full strength. But Celtic are already without John Hartson, Liam Miller, Johan Mjallby, Ulrik Laursen and Shaun Maloney for the last-16 Uefa Cup tie at Parkhead - and now they can add three more injury doubts to that list.

O'Neill's problems have gone from bad to worse - with Chris Sutton's ankle injury failing to respond to treatment and Bobo Balde and Joos Valgaeren missing training because of an ankle injury and cramp respectively. Balde has the best chance of recovering, but O'Neill knows the situation is far from ideal: "It's going to be a big ask for us," he said. "We are a wee bit stretched at this minute."

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