DEMBA Ba might not even make the visiting bench at St James’s Park tomorrow.
And the former striker’s predicament at Chelsea underlines the strength in depth the club’s manager, Jose Mourinho, has at his disposal.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, meanwhile, is without key players for the Chelsea game, and there are tired legs in the squad after Wednesday night’s extra-time cup defeat to Manchester City.
The whole must be greater than the sum of its parts.
Newcastle need a result. Pardew needs a result.
And he has drawn strength from last season’s meeting between the two sides on Tyneside, which Newcastle won 3-2 thanks to Moussa Sissoko’s double and a Jonas Gutierrez strike.
“It was probably our best display against one of the top teams this year,” Pardew said.
“We’ve performed well against Chelsea.
“In the last six games, it’s been two wins, two defeats and two draws. We’re competitive, if nothing else.
“I think this will be a tight game.
“Jose’s brought a bit more quality to the group – they’ve spent well this summer – and I think one part of his management which gets overlooked is that defensive side, which they’re stronger at when he’s there.
“So it’s going to be a difficult game, but we’re in good heart after Man City, when we put in a committed and spirited display against another top team.”
Chelsea, second in the Premier League, are well placed under Mourinho, who returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
Mourinho’s side are 8/13 odds-on favourites to win at St James’s Park. Somehow United must upset those odds.
Mourinho, one of football’s great tacticians, has earned the right to have players of the calibre of Ba – who left Newcastle last January – on the fringes of his squad.
“These guys have great resources, but you have to earn those resources by getting success,” said Pardew.
“They’ve had success at other levels. Therefore that’s what puts them in the position they’re in.
“A top coach with top players makes it very difficult. It’s up to us to try to undo them, and that’s what we’ll try to do on Saturday.”
Since his match-winning performance against Chelsea in February, Sissoko, signed from Toulouse in January, has rarely influenced the outcome of games.
And the 24-year-old’s best position has been the subject of much debate on Tyneside.
Sissoko has often been used as a No10 by Pardew, though many feel he’s a box-to-box midfielder.
Against City, the France international found himself on the right wing.
“I think Moussa had one of his best games of the season (against City), and that bodes well,” he said.
“It’s that power. You’ve only got to look at Man City to see where the Premier League is going. Chelsea will be the same.
“It’s real power and athleticism. Moussa has all of that. There are no worries in that department.”
The sooner Pardew can harness his power and athleticism, the better.
Meanwhile, a source close to Pardew has labelled a report that he is “interested” in the vacant managerial post at his former club Crystal Palace has “nonsense”.