NEWCASTLE United defender Massadio Haidara is likely to be sidelined until May – leaving boss John Carver desperately short of numbers at the back.
Haidara suffered a knee injury against Manchester United early this month, and the Magpies have not put a date on Haidara’s comeback.
Head coach Carver hopes to have midfielder Mehdi Abeid back for the Wear-Tyne derby on April 5, and winger Rolando Aarons – sidelined since November with hamstring and thigh problems – could also return from long-term injury next month.
Carver says Haidara has an “ongoing issue” with his knee – with the player not expected to be available in the “near future” as his problem is further assessed.
“There’s no sign of anyone coming back in the near future other than Mehdi,” said Carver.
Left-back Haidara’s absence – and the need to switch right-back Daryl Janmaat to central defence with captain Fabricio Coloccini suspended – has left Carver with a patched-up back four.
But the Tynesiders remain hopeful that Haidara will return late in the campaign.
Carver, for his part, is focused on ending Sunderland’s four-game derby winning streak with what he has available.
Midfielder Jack Colback could again be asked to play at left-back against his former club Sunderland, who are themselves sweating on the fitness of captain Wes Brown, who has a knee problem.
And utility man Ryan Taylor – who scored Newcastle’s last derby-winning goal in August 2011 – is likely to continue at right-back, where he was fielded in last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal.
Abeid returned to training this week ahead of the derby. The 22-year-old had been sidelined since early this month with a thigh problem.
Janmaat, meanwhile, is on international duty with Holland along with goalkeeper Tim Krul, and Carver faces an anxious few days waiting to see if they come through unscathed, given their importance to his derby plans.