NEWCASTLE United are hoping Jonas Gutierrez can shorten their worrying injury list by returning to the side to face Maritimo on Thursday.
A win for the Magpies will qualify them for the knockout stages of the Europa League, while a draw would do unless Brugge beat Bordeaux. Just as importantly, it would lift morale after back-to-back home defeats in the Premier League. Vice-captain Gutiérrez was one of seven senior players to miss Saturday’s 2-1 reverse to Swansea City, but the Magpies expect him to have recovered from a knee injury in time to play. With Cheick Tioté again suspended after a yellow card in Belgium, the versatile Argentinian could be needed.
“Jonás, we think will be back on Thursday,” manager Alan Pardew commented. “He was close (to facing playing at the weekend) – we were deciding on whether to play him, but we felt it was too risky.”
Even with Gutiérrez back, Newcastle will still be without Tioté, and the injured James Perch, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor, all of whom, like Gutiérrez, can play in the centre of the park. Most worryingly, Yohan Cabaye may need a groin operation which could rule him out for six weeks. The more attacking Vuckic apart, the French international is the one creative spark in a stable of midfielders which, for all their talents, are more functional than flamboyant.
In truth, the same can be said of Gutiérrez – a winger by preference who in 2012 has often seemed better suited to a central role – but his experience could be helpful in allowing Newcastle to wrap up qualification and make Pardew’s selection for their final group game, in
Bordeaux, largely irrelevant. Only Cabaye and Demba Ba have made more than his 12 appearances this season.
Pardew will at least be able to call on Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cissé, both of whom were unavailable on Saturday to face Swansea.
Captain Coloccini’s three-match domestic ban does not apply to the Europa League, so it would be in his interests as much as the team’s if he were to get some match practice at St James’ Park on Thursday.
Much to Newcastle’s disgust, the Senegalese Football Association invoked a Fifa rule to stop Cissé playing against the visiting Swans.
Countries can prevent players who skip international duty from playing for the next five days to dissuade clubs from barring their players turning out intern-ationally by inventing injuries.
Cissé was declared unfit to play for Senegal against Uganda last week, but had recovered in time to face Swansea.
Given that he was suffering from a bad back which forced his half-time withdrawal against West Ham United, it is doubtful whether he would have been able to do so had he made the 4,215-mile flight to Kampala.
The matter has become political, with Newcastle accusing the Senegalese of harbouring a grudge after they prevented the over-age striker from competing at the Olympics, as was their right to do so.
The Magpies are also likely to be without one of their outstanding European performers this season, in French winger Gabriel Obertan.
“Obertan has got a toe that we needed to sort out, so there has been a manoeuvre on that which put him out on Saturday and probably for Maritimo as well,” Pardew explained. “He might be back for (Sunday’s Premier League game in) Southampton.”
So bad are Newcastle’s injuries that even outcast Nile Ranger was in the reserve team which played in last night’s mini-derby.
Newcastle have reached the top of Group D with a 100% home record in Europe this season, while drawing all their away games. It is a formula Pardew would love to see continued for another couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, the Magpies have received 300 extra tickets for Sunday’s trip to Southampton. The game kicks off at 3pm. The extra tickets have gone on sale to members.