Robert a doubt for Newcastle

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United face an anxious wait over the fitness of Laurent Robert after a scan revealed internal bruising to the French midfielder's right knee.

The 28-year-old underwent the examination after jarring his knee during the 1-1 draw at Birmingham last Saturday. Robert was replaced by Hugo Viana in the closing minutes of the match.

Robert is now a major doubt for Saturday's Premiership game at home to Leicester City. With Nolberto Solano sold to Aston Villa last week, the Newcastle manager, Sir Bobby Robson, looks set to face Leicester without either of the wingers who have provided much of the supply to the strikers Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy in recent seasons.

The 19-year-old Darren Ambrose was asked to fill Solano's boots at St Andrews and Robert's injury could hand a rare start to Viana.

The Portuguese international was devastated that Robson vetoed a proposed loan move back to Sporting Lisbon during the transfer window. But the manager's reasoning - that he needed cover for his first-choice midfielders - may yet prove prophetic.

Viana does not enjoy the wide left berth and is certainly not an out-and-out winger, but the chance to start a game and prove that he can do a job for the club that invested £8.5m for his services two summers ago will come as a boost.

Another alternative would be to throw the summer signing Lee Bowyer back into the frame after he played a full game for the reserves at Liverpool on Monday night following an extended lay-off with a hip injury.

The 27-year-old former Leeds midfielder has not played for the first team since the 1-1 draw at Wolves on 29 November and he admits that his spell on the sidelines has been frustrating.

"It has been a nightmare, because all I have been able to do is rest," he told the club's official website.

"I need to build my fitness up now. It was no good playing an hour or so against Liverpool; I wanted the full 90, and that's what I got."

Bowyer was joined in the reserves by Bellamy, who managed his second full game - either side of a substitute's appearance in the first team at St Andrews - since his return from knee surgery.

Bellamy will hope for a chance to partner Shearer from the start on Saturday and the reserve team coach Tommy Craig believes he is just about ready.

"Craig was very busy again against Liverpool and he got a good 90 minutes under his belt," he said.

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