NEWCASTLE United midfielder Cheik Tiote is battling to be fit for the start of the Premier League season.
The Ivory Coast international has played just 60 minutes of football in pre-season, in last midweek’s 1-0 friendly victory at Sheffield Wednesday.
And Tiote is not expected to be involved in Sunday’s final warm-up game against Real Sociedad at St James’s Park.
It is understood that Tiote has a hamstring problem.
Tiote, usually one of the first names on manager Alan Pardew’s teamsheet, is undergoing treatment ahead of the Magpie’s Premier League opener at home to champions Manchester City on August 17.
The 28-year-old was an unused substitute for last Saturday’s defeat to Malaga in Germany, but Tiote did not even make the bench for the following day’s game against Schalke 04.
Tiote was allowed to report back for pre-season training later than the bulk of his team-mates because of his involvement in the World Cup in Brazil.
Tiote’s injury is a concern for Pardew given his importance to Newcastle. Summer signing Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita can play as defensive midfielders, but Tiote is Pardew’s first-choice holding player.
With Newcastle’s defence having been left exposed at times this pre-season, Pardew, mindful of Manchester City’s wealth of attacking talent, can only hope that Tiote recovers in time, though he would lack match fitness.
Summer signing Siem de Jong is Pardew’s other injury concern. However, the Dutchman – who has been troubled by a foot problem – could be involved against Real Sociedad, who defend a 2-0 lead when they visit Aberdeen in the Europa League qualifier second leg tonight.