As Manchester United moved for Berbatov, there was increasing belief on Tyneside that Michael Owen will not be fit for Sunday's season opener at Old Trafford. At a Newcastle open training session at St James' Park yesterday morning, Owen merely jogged around the pitch as he recovers from a calf strain and, having not kicked a ball in pre-season, is almost certainly out of Sunday's match.
With Obafemi Martins missing yesterday – his absence is unexplained but the Nigerian missed training on Tuesday as well – there is fresh doubt about his readiness for Old Trafford.
Mark Viduka is out due to injury and Shola Ameobi is said to be in talks with Ipswich Town pending a transfer to the Championship. That leaves teenager Andy Carroll, who is unfit, and Alan Smith, who has not yet scored a competitive goal for Newcastle one year on from his £6m signing from Manchester United.
As of yesterday afternoon, Jonas Gutierrez, Kevin Keegan's signing from Real Mallorca, had still not received international clearance from Fifa so there is concern about his participation – and Keegan will have to deal with an increased bid of up to £8m from Aston Villa for James Milner.
Gutierrez's compatriot Fabricio Coloccini did not train yesterday but at least his Premier League registration is expected through before tomorrow, meaning the £9.1m defender from Deportivo La Coruña should be in line for a debut.
But with seven spaces on the substitutes' bench this season, Newcastle may be struggling to fill them all with recognisable first-team players.
Joey Barton yesterday admitted guilt to the FA's charge of "violent conduct" and has requested a personal hearing, which should be heard within the next four weeks. The incident happened at Manchester City's Carrington training ground on 1 May 2007, before his £5.8m move to St James' Park in June last year.
Tiago Mendes, the Juventus midfielder, is considering a loan move to Newcastle. Tiago is available for a season on loan before an £8m permanent transfer.
Already missing Kenwyne Jones until the beginning of October, Sunderland yesterday discovered that Michael Chopra has been suspended for the first three matches of the season after being dismissed in a pre-season friendly at Sporting Lisbon. It means Daryl Murphy is likely to lead the attack against Liverpool on Saturday.