Fabricio Coloccini is losing his battle to be fit for Newcastle United’s visit to Stoke City – leaving Steve McClaren with a decision to make about his captain.
Coloccint is set for a late fitness test ahead of tomorrow night’s game at the Britannia Stadium.
The relegation-threatened club’s under-fire captain is doubtful with a calf injury.
Head coach McClaren – who is considering making changes to both his team and system for the game – is mulling over his defensive options.
And if, as expected, Coloccini fails to prove his fitness, McClaren will have to decide who will lead Newcastle.
January signing Jonjo Shelvey – who captained United in a pre-season friendly against Lillestrom on February 20 – is a strong candidate, as is Georginio Wijnaldum, who skippered PSV Eindhoven to the Dutch league title last season.
However, Shelvey has disappointed in his three away outings for the club so far, while nine-goal Wijnaldum is yet to score on his travels and has been more influential at St James’s Park.
Jack Colback and Steven Taylor are also contenders to lead McClaren’s side out at the Britannia Stadium.
Colback, on nine yellow cards, is a booking away from a two-game suspension.
While Coloccini is yet to return to training, McClaren – who will address the media today for the first time since the club’s 5-1 defeat to Chelsea 17 days ago – hopes to have a number of players back from injury.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (knee) has a chance of being involved, while his fellow striker Papiss Cisse (groin) is also close to a comeback.
Midfielder Vurnon Anita and defender Paul Dummett have recovered from their respective hamstring injuries.
Forward Siem de Jong – who suffered a freak eye injury in training last month – is also back in training and available for selection.
Newcastle are 18th in the Premier League with 12 games left to play.