Souness's derby preparations hit by Owen injury

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen limped out of a practice match on Tuesday with a hamstring strain to leave him in doubt for the derby. The 25-year-old England striker suffered with hamstring problems during his time at Liverpool and though this current injury does not appear to be a serious one, it might keep him out against Sunderland.

It is yet another fitness blow to Souness, who nevertheless is excited by being involved in another highly charged derby. "I've played in derbies in Liverpool and Glasgow, and managed in them as well. Rangers v Celtic is special, as is the Merseyside derby and Galatasaray against Fenerbahce," he said.

"I'm sure Newcastle v Sunderland will be up there with the best of them."

With Owen now a doubt, the England Under-21 striker Shola Ameobi has been put on alert.

The practice match in which Owen was injured had been arranged to help Nolberto Solano and Emre reacquaint themselves with the first team after a spell on the sidelines.

The No 2 goalkeeper, Steve Harper, also suffered an injury in the same match. Midfielder Lee Bowyer (knee) is struggling to be fit while Kieron Dyer and Albert Luque will miss out.

Newcastle suffered a further blow on Tuesday night when the defender Craig Moore hobbled off at half-time in a reserve match against Birmingham with a hamstring problem.

The Sunderland midfielder Julio Arca believes he has a "50-50 chance" of featuring. The Argentinian has been out for the past three weeks with a fractured toe and the Black Cats' manager, Mick McCarthy, insists his key man is "very unlikely" to be involved at St James' Park.

However, Arca is determined to play a part at some stage of the proceedings. "I will do everything I can to get fit and a decision is unlikely to be made until nearer the game," Arca said. "At the moment maybe I have a 50-50 chance. I'm doing some gym work and I'm hoping to be able to join is training on Friday.

"I will do everything I can to get fit, I want desperately to play in the derby."