World Football: Newell's Old Boys keep a shirt warm for Maradonna

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

NEWELL'S OLD BOYS are ready to take back Diego Maradona after he walked out on them last week. The former Argentinian captain, who made a comeback with the club in order to play his way back into World Cup contention, left after missing a series of training sessions, and was later charged with firing an air gun at journalists outside his home.

The club's trainer, Jorge Castellican, said: 'Diego's team shirt is ready and he can return to training whenever he likes.' Maradona himself, however said that he wanted to prepare for Argentina's pre-World Cup friendlies by playing exhibition matches.

He also said he would like to help manage Argentina after the World Cup, before denying rumours he was taking drugs and in financial difficulties. 'My daughters will eat caviar all their lives,' he said.

In Italy, Sampdoria, who played brilliantly in their Italian Cup semi-final win over Parma in the week, field an even stronger team for today's repeat encounter in Serie A.

Their international central defender, Pietro Vierchowod, and Serb midfielder, Vladimir Jugovic, who were both suspended for last Tuesday's Cup tie, return to a team second in the table, four points adrift of Milan.

David Platt, scorer of a brilliantly-taken scissor-kick in the win over Parma, praised his side's performance. 'The present Sampdoria is certainly the best side I've ever played in,' the England midfielder said. 'But only Milan themselves can lose the championship while we have to keep on winning game after game.'

Parma, who will be missing their suspended Argentine midfielder, Nestor Sensini, are likely to recall their striker, Giancarlo Zola, and defender Antonio Benarrivo, and may rest the Colombian, Faustino Asprilla, who scored their only goal against Sampdoria. Alessandro Melli should step up to fill the gap.

Milan may field only two foreigners, the French midfielder, Marcel Desailly, and the Montenegrin striker, Dejan Savicevic, for their home game against Cremonese.

The Romanian, Florin Raducioiu, and Frenchman Jean-Pierre Papin, are both injured, while the club's Dane, Brian Laudrup, will probably start on the bench.

The Spanish champions, Barcelona, with only one win in their last six league and Cup matches, hope to break their lean spell by beating Real Zaragoza today.

A fortnight ago Real Madrid were the crisis team, beaten 5-0 by Barca at the Nou Camp and in a slump from which they only emerged last week when they beat the league leaders, Deportivo La Coruna, 2-0.

Since then Barcelona have drawn at Seville, lost at Real Sociedad and been knocked out of the Cup by Second Division Real Betis. They capped a disastrous run by losing 3-2 at home to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

For today's game, they will be without their suspended Bulgarian striker, Hristo Stoichkov, whose dismissal against Bilbao was his eighth since joining the club in 1990.

Barcelona's coach, Johan Cruyff, has asked his directors to approve a Ptas 1m (pounds 4,800) fine for his Brazilian striker, Romario, whose left hook to the chin of Seville's Diego Simeone cost him a red card and a four-match suspension.

(Photograph omitted)