HAVING received an unexpected boost from Senegal’s poor showing at the African Cup of Nations, manager Alan Pardew is still in the dark about when Papiss Cissé will make his Newcastle United debut.
After losing their opening two matches in the competition, Sunday’s game against Libya will be Senegal’s last in this season’s competition.
Pardew is unclear as to whether that means £7.5m January signing Cissé and his new club-mate Demba Ba will be available for Wednesday’s Premier League trip to Blackburn Rovers.
“It’s not as simple as them playing at Blackburn,” Pardew revealed. “We have to contact Senegal and they might want the squad to fly back together or whatever. But we are pushing to get them back into Newcastle.
“I really don’t know what the chances are because it’s kind of over there. I really could not put a percentage on it.”
With Senegal one of the pre-tournament favourites and the third highest-ranked team to qualify, Pardew would not have been expecting to see Cissé or Ba until mid-February. Newcastle’s 15-goal top-scorer has already missed three games, as has holding midfielder Cheick Tioté, who plays for top-ranked Ivory Coast. Neither Newcastle man scored in Senegal’s defeats to Zambia and co-hosts Equatorial Guinea – although Cissé was only a substitute on the opening weekend, when Ba hit the woodwork from one of his crosses.
Twenty-six-year-old Cissé’s move from Freiburg was completed four days before the biennial competition kicked off. He was handed the famous number nine shirt left vacant since Andy Carroll’s £35m move to Liverpool almost a year earlier.
Ba – who played in the hole behind Cissé in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Wednesday – was in tremendous form before the tournament, scoring 16 goals in his previous 17 games for club and country.
Pardew is unsure what mental state the pair will be in when they return to Tyneside.
“I hope the players aren’t too (mentally) damaged because obviously, by their ranking in the world (43rd according to Fifa), the two results are disappointing so I’m sure the two guys are disappointed,” Pardew reflected. “They still have a game to go which is difficult to play when you are already out. The manager (Amara Traore) has a difficult situation.
“But the plus side is they are coming back to Newcastle early and they will definitely be involved against Aston Villa (a week on Sunday).
“Cissé has literally only had eight hours here. He has to get used to that number nine (shirt).”
Even if the pair are back before the midweek trip to Ewood Park, Newcastle will have to assess the effect a long-haul flight has on them before Pardew can select them. With a history of knee trouble, Ba will be put under particular scrutiny.
Tioté played 90 minutes and was booked for a late tackle as Ivory Coast booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Burkino Faso yesterday.
Fabricio Coloccini has emerged as a doubt for United’s FA Cup fourth-round trip to Brighton tomorrow. The defender tweaked his groin in training and will be assessed nearer the time of the televised 5.30pm kick-off.
James Perch, who has been used as a midfield substitute since Mike Williamson’s return to fitness, will replace the Argentinian if he is ruled out.
Pardew has denied any interest in Holland’s Eljero Elia. Newcastle had been linked with a loan move for the Juventus winger.
Meanwhile, the Magpies’ reserves last night suffered a demoralising 6-0 defeat to Manchester United at Moss Lane.
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