Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will be recalled to action for Newcastle United this weekend amid claims from former club Montpellier he made a mistake joining the Magpies and will return to France in the near future.
In the first of three matches which have huge significance for both United and boss Alan Pardew – whose weekend comments about Mike Ashley have drawn a mixed reaction in the St James’ Park boardroom – Newcastle are likely to be without skipper Fabricio Coloccini.
The Argentina international was on his way back to Tyneside last night and the club won’t know for certain whether he can play until tomorrow.
However, the initial prognosis after consultations with Argentina mean United are planning to take on table-topping Liverpool without their influential defender.
That is almost certain to mean a recall for Yanga-Mbiwa, who was withdrawn at half-time during the 3-2 defeat at Everton earlier this month.
It was the lowest point of a mixed Newcastle career and has been noted in France, where former chairman Louis Nicolin has said he feels “sorry” for the defender.
In comments hardly likley to help the 24-year-old, Nicollin claimed his agent led him to make the move and he had made a mistake moving to England.
“I’m sorry for him,” Nicollin told French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“I love him a lot. He has followed the advice of his agent and he was wrong to leave.
“Don’t worry, though, he’ll come back to Montpellier.”
Although the Coloccini injury has forced the issue, The Journal understands Yanga-Mbiwa was always in the running to face Liverpool on account of his greater mobility being an asset against Liverpool’s rampant partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
However, the focus will be on him after the claims from his former club, which hint all is not well with Yanga-Mbiwa.
Pardew could do with as few distractions as possible as he heads for a trio of games which could define the season.
Although the defeat of Cardiff eased the pressure on him, Pardew is still under scrutiny and it remains to be seen how Ashley felt about the manager’s assertion he makes mistakes when “angry and upset” about football.
Although he delivered a supportive and upbeat appraisal of Ashley’s regime, it is worth noting the power-lines remain confused at Newcastle following a summer of upheaval.
Fragile alliances appear to depend on continued positive results and with Newcastle set to face Liverpool, Sunderland and then Manchester City there is no doubt the autumn programme of fixtures will have a big bearing on where the club goes next.
While Joe Kinnear’s presence has been read by some as a threat to Pardew, the manager feels the director of football can be a help rather than a hindrance.
He is close enough to Ashley to influence his thinking on transfers and Pardew wants to use him to emphasise the need for more British players.
Yet Ashley wants to see the current squad utilised better and that brings into close scrutiny the issue of whether Hatem Ben Arfa is recalled for the Reds game.
The forward was dropped for the trip to Cardiff and Newcastle responded with a fine 2-1 victory, which gave the manager and club breathing space ahead of a treacherous run of fixtures.
Meanwhile, Vurnon Anita has said United are intent on payback when they take on Liverpool on Sunday.
The corresponding fixture last season ended 6-0 to the Reds and midfielder Anita feels Newcastle owe Liverpool for the humiliation.
He said: “The last game against Liverpool was not good for us. We are in better shape and in a better mood now.
“We have to put what happened to one side but we cannot totally forget about what they did to us.
“It is now our turn to do it against them.
“I think both teams are actually better than last season. It is going to be a good game.”