ALAN Pardew admits influential midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux are already major doubts for Newcastle's top-of-the-table tussle with Manchester City a week on Saturday.
The French duo both sustained groin injuries in this weekend's 2-1 win over Everton that will be assessed at the club's training ground later today.
Cabaye felt his groin in the early stages of the game, but attempted to play on before he was eventually forced to admit defeat shortly before half-time. Marveaux appeared to suffer his injury when he was fouled by Jonny Heitinga at the start of the second half, and he too now faces a lengthy period of recovery.
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Gabriel Obertan is extremely unlikely to be available for the trip to the Etihad Stadium after suffering an infection in his toe, so Pardew will spend the current international break sweating on the fitness of two of his leading midfielders.
"They're both groin injuries, and I'd guess they'd be difficult to heal in two weeks," said the Newcastle manager, who has also been forced to manage without Cheik Tiote in the last two games. "We'll have to wait and see.
"It's not like they're huge tears and they're definitely out of the next game, I'm just assuming it will be a tight call for them."
Leon Best suffered groin and toe injuries at the weekend, and having only been promoted to the Republic of Ireland squad last week, the striker is now unlikely to feature in the European Championships play-off double-header with Estonia. He will, however, join up with Giovanni Trapattoni's squad and is expected to be assessed today.
A consistency of selection has been a major feature of Newcastle's stellar start to the campaign, with Pardew able to select his first-choice XI for the majority of matches.
The back five has remained completely unchanged all season, while the rest of the team played for five games in a row prior to Tiote's enforced absence.
There is a sense that Newcastle could struggle to cope with too many injuries, such is the relatively small size of their squad, and while Pardew was delighted with the performance of his three substitutes at the weekend, he accepts the problems are mounting.
"We can't suffer too many more injuries," he said. "When you're coming up against the best, you need your best players. We'll be working hard to get our best team out at Man City.
"But I was really pleased with the three subs (against Everton). Dan (Gosling) had a tough opening because (Jack) Rodwell was really on it. It was a tough start trying to look after him, but as the match wore on he got better and better.
"Sammy (Ameobi) was terrific and so was Hatem (Ben Arfa). In the background, the staff are doing a great job keeping those guys up and ready."
Having called on Newcastle's supporters to pack out St James' Park last week, Pardew was delighted to see Saturday's attendance break the 50,000 mark for the first time this season.
While plenty of other clubs have seen their attendances dip in the face of economic uncertainty, the Magpies are close to getting the 'Sold Out' signs out again, a remarkable achievement given the divisions that existed between supporters and the board at the start of the campaign.
"When I say I want the fans to come here, it's only because I think the players deserve it," said Pardew. "It is nice for them to respond and I think they did.
"There were a couple of periods where the atmosphere was unlike anything you will get at any other ground, and at the end, they were brilliant to help get us over the line.
"If that had been at Goodison, I don't think we would have won that game. They helped get us back in a good shape. It's nice to hear them shouting, singing and trying to help us. I think it helped calm us down."