Newcastle could be without Cisse and Ba for European debut

Newcastle could be without Cisse and Ba for European debut

Newcastle could be without Cisse and Ba for European debut

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

NEWCASTLE could be forced to start next season's European programme without strikers Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba.

The Olympic football tournament clashes with the preliminary round of the Europa League, and it looks increasingly likely that Cisse and Ba will be selected in the Senegal squad for the Games.

Senegal booked their Olympic place with a play-off victory over Oman on Monday, and will face Great Britain, Uruguay and UAE in Group A of the competition after yesterday's draw.

The Olympic football competition is essentially an under-23 tournament, but entrants are allowed to select three over-age players as part of their squad.

Senegal flopped at January's Africa Cup of Nations, failing to record a single victory at the group stage, and there is therefore significant pressure on them to produce a much-improved showing at the Olympics.

As a result, Senegal Football Association president Augustin Senghor has outlined his determination to push for Ba and Cisse's inclusion in the squad that is submitted to FIFA in the middle of next month.

As a mandatory tournament on the FIFA calendar, Newcastle officials would not be able to prevent the release of the striking duo, even though the Olympics could clash with a fixture in the third preliminary round of the Europa League.

If Newcastle finish sixth and Liverpool win the FA Cup, the Magpies will be forced to play a two-legged preliminary round game on August 2 and 9.

However, even if the Magpies were not in action at such an early stage of the season, the loss of Cisse and Ba for up to a month would still seriously impact on their pre-season preparations.

"If we can strengthen our young team with famous players from great championships like the Premier League, we should," said Senghor. "We need top scorers like Papiss Cisse. If you leave players like that at home, it is a big mistake.

"If we call them, they will come. It is a privilege to participate in the Olympic Games. There are many great players who regret not playing in the Olympics.

"They are patriotic guys. They will come if we ask. Also, it will be a very good thing for them to play against their colleagues in England. It will create a lot of focus around the game and the stadium will be full."

Senegal face Great Britain in the pair's opening Group A fixture at Old Trafford on July 26.

The Olympic tournament threatens to be an unwanted headache for Alan Pardew, who has already had to put some of his pre-season planning on hold until he knows what European competition his side will be playing in next term.

The Newcastle boss is currently assessing a range of transfer targets, but will not assemble a final shortlist until he knows whether he will be benefiting from the riches of the Champions League next season.

However, he has already completed the formalities of his first summer deal, with French midfielder Romain Amalfitano having agreed to move to St James' Park as soon as the transfer window officially opens at the start of July.

Amalfitano is available on a free transfer as his contract with French side Reims is due to expire this summer.

Newcastle have been monitoring his situation for a number of months, and 22-year-old Amalfitano is understood to have agreed a three-year deal with Magpies officials.

An industrious central midfielder who is comfortable in possession, it is hoped that Amalfitano will be competing for a place in the first-team squad at some stage next season.

Pardew is also monitoring Peterborough striker Paul Taylor, and Newcastle scouts were at London Road last weekend to watch the 24-year-old in his side's 2-2 draw with Watford.

Taylor, who has scored 12 Championship goals this season, rejected the offer of a new four-year deal with Posh earlier this month.

He has one year left on his current deal, but Peterborough director of football Barry Fry has already admitted his club will look to cash in this summer.

Meanwhile, Cheik Tiote has insisted he has no interest in leaving Tyneside in the close season.

The Ivory Coast international has been repeatedly linked with a possible move to Chelsea, but with Newcastle in contention for a top-four finish, he is adamant he can realise his ambitions with the Magpies.

"I can achieve what I want to here," said Tiote. "I don't know about the speculation. I have four games to play, I think I have to focus on the games because they are important games for the club and for everybody.

"I think that is the most important thing now, we have to do everything we can to win those games."

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