Exclusive: Newcastle hit by injury to captain Fabricio Coloccini

The Argentine defender will be out for most of March

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The Independent Football

Newcastle are expected to be without their captain Fabricio Coloccini for most of March because of the back injury he suffered during their 4-2 victory against Southampton last weekend.

The Argentine defender injured his back attempting an acrobatic clearance during the first half in the crucial win that moved the club clear of the relegation zone. He immediately limped off on the stroke of half-time and was replaced by new signing Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Alan Pardew had hoped the influential Coloccini would be ready to return for Newcastle's trip to Swansea tomorrow.

However the back injury has not cleared and Coloccini could miss at least five games, including the club's two-legged Europa League tie with Anzhi Makhachkala. Pardew does at least have a direct replacement in Yanga-Mbiwa following the club's recruitment of five new players during the January transfer window.

Coloccini had tried to leave Newcastle during January because of personal problems, but he was threatened with legal action if he followed his threat to walk out. Pardew has carefully manoeuvred the player back into the heart of his side, and bravely maintained the 30-year-old as his captain. His absence will be a blow, with Newcastle looking for a strong finish to their season.

They have been further rocked in that quest, however, with confirmation that first choice goalkeeper Tim Krul will also be missing for the next month following the ankle injury he picked up during their Europa League victory against Metalist. Rob Elliot will continue to deputise in his absence.

Pardew is also hoping Hatem Ben Arfa will emerge to play a significant part in the final part of the season. Ben Arfa has missed three months because of a serious hamstring injury. He did not require surgery but spent large parts of his recuperation at Clairefontaine in France.

The player has missed some training sessions because of illness, which means if he has a role to play at Swansea, it will be minimal. Pardew however, wants the player to step up his recovery to make an impact.

"His conditioning has to go up the levels now and he's aware of that," said Pardew. "He's been protecting his hamstrings. It's now a question of trying to get that work in, so the message I am giving the fans is don't expect too much here. This guy, where I thought perhaps he could start on Thursday (in Moscow), I don't think he can physically but we are pushing him. We're going to push him for Thursday if we can.

"There is no blame attached to him. He had a little trouble this week with illness so he missed a day and he has missed a couple of days here and there which have cost him. I think that from now on, he cannot miss any more days but I am not being critical of him, definitely not.

"I am just telling our fans because I know our fans are like, "Let's get Hatem in the team,' and he ain't ready."