ALAN Pardew is sweating on the fitness of a clutch of Newcastle United players ahead of the Wear-Tyne derby.
Captain Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Tim Krul are pencilled in to return to training next week ahead of the Sunderland game on October 21.
Yohan Cabaye has complained of an abdominal injury with France, and won’t start against Japan in Paris tonight, but Magpies Pardew is confident the problem isn’t serious.
Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Cheik Tiote are also away for a decisive African Cup of Nations qualifier between Senegal and Ivory Coast in Dakar.
With a place in next year’s finals in South Africa at stake, it is certain to be a bruising and keenly-contested game.
Pardew lost Coloccini and Krul to injury in the last international break, and he’s hoping all return to Tyneside fit and ready for one of the biggest games of Newcastle’s season.
“Yohan Cabaye’s with France, but I think he’ll be fine,” said Pardew.
“Everybody else we are hoping on Wednesday – Steven, Colo and Tim will train – but we’ll see.”
“Hopefully, Cabaye comes through. If that happens, we’ll be OK. He’s probably the most important player on international duty.”
Pardew is confident Shane Ferguson, withdrawn from the Northern Ireland squad with a hip injury, will be fit to face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Ferguson – who started against Manchester United on Sunday – had been due to face Portugal, but ended up staying behind on Tyneside for treatment.
“Shane Ferguson stayed behind,” added Pardew. “Hopefully, after a week’s treatment he’ll be OK.”
The return of Coloccini (hamstring), Taylor (calf) and Krul (elbow) would significantly strengthen Pardew’s options ahead of the much-aniticpated derby.
“We’ve been unlucky on international breaks,” said Pardew.
“We lost Colo, we lost Tim, so fingers crossed we come through with a clean bill of health this time. After the weekend, we’ll have a much bigger hand to choose from.”
Pardew, meanwhile, is backing Haris Vuckic to recover from the latest injury to blight hiscareer.
The forward will miss the rest of the season after rupturing the cruciate ligament in left knee.
Vuckic – who has had wretched luck with injury in recent seasons – suffered the injury in a reserve game on Monday night.
Pardew said: “It was traumatic for Haris. He knew straight away, and it was very upsetting for all of us who were there.
“He’ll have to get on with it – he just needs to get his head down and do the work.”