WITH a defensive crisis looming ahead of this weekend's trip to Norwich City, Alan Pardew will stress the need for January reinforcements when he discusses his transfer plans with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley this week.
Magpies officials have already agreed the outline details of a deal that will see Sochaux striker Modibo Maiga move to the North-East in next month's transfer window, and this week's discussions were originally intended to be a preliminary chat about additional targets.
However, the scheduled talks assumed an increased urgency on Saturday as Steven Taylor sustained an Achilles injury that will rule him out of the rest of the season and fellow centre-half Fabricio Coloccini also picked up a thigh injury.
It remains too early to determine the full extent of Coloccini's problem - it is hoped the Argentinian has not suffered a tear that could also rule him out of the festive programme - but with Mike Williamson still to resume full training as he recovers from a foot injury, Pardew faces a major selection headache ahead of the trip to Carrow Road.
He cannot recall James Tavernier from his loan at Sheffield Wednesday until the youngster has spent 28 days at Hillsborough, and while Tamas Kadar is available, the Hungarian had fallen completely out of favour prior to this weekend's developments.
As a result, James Perch and Davide Santon are set to form a completely untried defensive partnership on Saturday, with Newcastle unlikely to name another defender on the bench.
The situation is far from ideal, and underlines a lack of depth that was always likely to become an issue at some stage.
Pardew failed in a last-gasp attempt to sign Liam Ridgewell on the final day of the August transfer window, and the Birmingham centre-half is set to figure prominently in this week's talks.
He has made 16 appearances this season, but with Birmingham struggling in the bottom half of the Championship table, Chris Hughton could come under pressure to sell if Newcastle were to table a respectable offer next month.
Pardew has also been monitoring potential targets abroad, and they will be pursued as a matter of urgency in the next few weeks.
He is a long-standing admirer of Erik Pieters, another player who was targeted vigorously in the summer, and while the Holland international is regarded as more of a left-back, he also has experience of playing at centre-half.
Newcastle scouts have also watched Montpellier skipper Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, a rugged 22-year-old who has represented France at Under-21 level.
Interestingly, sources in London claim United will be offered an opportunity to re-sign Sebastien Bassong, who left St James' Park to join Tottenham in August 2009 but who has subsequently struggled to hold down a place in Spurs' first team.
Harry Redknapp is willing to let Bassong leave White Hart Lane next month, but unless a loan deal can be agreed, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is expected to demand the bulk of the £8m he shelled out to sign the Cameroon international two-and-a-half years ago.
As well as experiencing severe defensive problems, Newcastle also have concerns in other areas of the field, most notably in midfield where Cheik Tiote's knee problem is proving harder to treat than anticipated.
Tiote, who has now missed the Magpies' last six matches, will be reassessed by the club's medical staff this morning. If he is unable to join in full training, it is extremely unlikely that he will be involved at Carrow Road.