Newcastle have been dealt a major blow with the news that captain Fabricio Coloccini is facing an eight-week absence.
The 31-year-old central defender damaged his groin during training on international duty with Argentina last week. He did not play in his country’s first World Cup qualifier against Peru, a 3-1 victory, and was sent back to Tyneside before Argentina’s defeat to Uruguay.
The injury meant he missed Newcastle’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the weekend and the severity has meant he has been sent back to his homeland to recover.
It is now thought serious enough to rule him out for the majority of 2013, with the defender not expected to play for the club until Christmas.
That could mean Alan Pardew is without his defensive lynchpin for around 10 games.
The injury is compounded by the fact that fellow defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is suspended after being sent off against Liverpool for fouling Luis Suarez, apart from the fact that he has also struggled for form this season.
Yanga-Mbiwa was substituted at half-time during the 3-2 defeat to Everton on 30 September after being given a torrid time by Romelu Lukaku. Pardew will instead turn to Steven Taylor for the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland on Sunday.
Taylor was sent off during Newcastle’s first Premier League game of the season, a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City, and has not figured since. He has only just fully recovered from a hamstring injury.
Taylor is likely to be given an extended return to first team action in Coloccini’s absence, with Pardew admitting the North-east derby with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light is too big a game for Paul Dummett, the 22-year-old local left-back who scored against Liverpool on his Premier League debut.
Dummett has signed a new, four-year contract with the option of a further two years.
The loss of Coloccini for Pardew is still a major blow. The defender had started all seven of Newcastle’s Premier League games before suffering his injury and is the most senior defender at the club.
Coloccini did try to leave Newcastle during the transfer window in January. He was ready to return home because of personal problems and warned Pardew he would not come back.
However he was threatened with legal action if he did not return by owner Mike Ashley and talks between Newcastle officials, Pardew, Coloccini and the player’s representatives ended with him committing to stay at St James’ Park.
The player had been keen to move to the Argentinian side San Lorenzo, where his father worked, but they did not have the finance to buy him.
Coloccini ended the season having played 22 games as the St James’ Park club narrowly escaped relegation to the Championship and he retained the captain’s armband for this campaign.