NEWCASTLE United were last night anxiously awaiting reports on the fitness of their in-form striker Demba Ba.
With a second round of matches due to be played tonight, it has not been a great international break for the Magpies.
Despite being noticeably under-represented for one of only two unbeaten sides in England this season, they already have injury concerns over two players ahead of Sunday’s televised visit of Tottenham Hotspur.
France are downplaying the extent of Yohan Cabaye’s injury, picked up in Friday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Albania. But Newcastle will soon discover for themselves the extent of Ba’s latest knee problem.
The Senegal striker joined this summer with a chequered injury history.
A prospective January move to Stoke City fell through when the Potters’ examined the results of his medical. Unwilling to gamble on Ba’s left knee, he was allowed to join West Ham United instead, moving on again when the Upton Park club were relegated at the end of the season.
Like the player himself, Newcastle have been at great pains to stress what good condition the 26-year-old’s joints are in, but any mention of knee trouble is bound to cause concern on Tyneside, not least because of Ba’s recent form.
It had not been possible to ascertain last night whether his latest problem is to the same knee, but with no game for the Lions of Teranga tonight Newcastle’s medical team will assess the problem themselves tomorrow.
Newcastle have fielded an unchanged starting line-up for their last three matches, Ba scoring four times in the last two games. They were his first goals for the club, having looked a little off the pace initially, making his debut during Ramadam when, as a Muslim, he was on a month-long fast during daylight hours.
Senegal qualified for next year’s African Cup of Nations before the weekend’s final qualifier over pointless Mauritius, but called Ba up anyway. He played no part in training on Friday or Saturday, with the Senegal Football Association citing a knee problem as the reason. Unsurprisingly, he did not feature in the 2-0 victory. Further detail, however, has been scant.
With France’s Euro 2012 place yet to be secured, Les Blues have been similarly cagey about Cabaye, one of eight players to have started all seven of Newcastle’s Premier League matches this season.
The midfielder was initially rated “50-50” for this evening’s Group D decider against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Paris. Cabaye was substituted in Friday’s win over Albania with an ankle problem.
France need a draw tonight to confirm their place at this summer’s tournament as group winners. Without it, they are at least guaranteed a play-off spot.
If it proves serious enough to rule him out of Sunday’s game, Ba’s absence will be compensated by the return to fitness of Shola Ameobi. A combination of injury and the form of Ba and Leon Best have kept the long-serving targetman out of Newcastle’s Premier League starting XI since the draw at Queens Park Rangers in mid-September. Ameobi is yet to score this season.
Tottenham full-back Kyle Walker was excused from England’s European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Norway last night because of the imminent arrival of his child.
Lee Probert has been named as the referee for Sunday’s game. The Wiltshire whistler officiated two Newcastle games last season, but no goals.
Meanwhile, Davide Santon has revealed Newcastle saw off interest from Roma to sign him this summer.
The 20-year-old full-back, who captained Italy Under-20s this week, joined from Internazionale in August, with the Magpies lodging a bid before their rivals could.
“I did not have talks with anyone, but I know (Roma sporting director Walter) Sabatini wanted me,” Santon revealed.
“But, the deal was not concluded and so I went to Newcastle. I am happy there.”
Santon is yet to make his Newcastle debut.