Newcastle recovery rests on quartet's return

Souness, who has seen his plans hampered by an injury crisis in recent weeks, voiced his hopes last week that Kieron Dyer, Emre and Nolberto Solano would be fit for the visit of Manchester City to St James' Park on Saturday, with Scott Parker available again after suspension.

However, he does not yet know who he will have available to face City. "I would say that Dyer, Solano and Emre are still all doubtful," said Souness.

"We will know better in a couple of days but at this moment in time I would say that all three are only 50-50 for Saturday."

Souness had little choice but to play Amdy Faye, Lee Clark, Lee Bowyer and Charles N'Zogbia in midfield at his former club, Blackburn, at the weekend. However, that paid off as the quartet worked hard to pave the way for a 3-0 victory with the French teenager N'Zogbia sealing the points with a superb finish. Nevertheless, given a fully fit squad none of the four would make his first-choice line-up.

The Magpies have spent in excess of £20m this summer to recruit Parker, Emre, Albert Luque - who is out for two months with a torn hamstring - and Solano but Souness has been denied the opportunity to field them all.

Dyer and Emre are both battling to shake off hamstring problems which they aggravated during the 2-0 home defeat by Manchester United on 28 August, while Solano arrived from Aston Villa at the end of last month with a thigh strain.

With Steven Taylor suspended as the result of his sending-off at Ewood Park, Titus Bramble is likely to return to the starting line-up with £8m signing Jean-Alain Boumsong, who has not been at his best in recent weeks.

The summer signing Craig Moore is also expected to be available for the first time after shaking off a hamstring injury. "We were just about down to the bare bones on Sunday, so at least we will get a few more bodies back for Saturday," said Souness. "What we really need now is to keep the place buzzing by going on a run."

What will maintain the confidence is if the strikers, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, continue to score after both found the net against Blackburn, although N'Zogbia's two goals in as many matches have been noted by the front two.

Having seen the 19-year-old calmly round Rovers keeper Brad Friedel before slotting home, Owen told the club's website, "It was a great finish by Charles, the way he took the ball around the goalkeeper like he did.

"He kept on delaying it and delaying it and I thought he must have something up his sleeve. It was a fantastic finish and it killed the game off."

Shearer added: "Charles finished fantastically well, particularly as we were down to 10 men. The way he was left one against one and to take it around the keeper and stick it in, you would think he had done that his whole career."

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