NEWCASTLE will have to overcome England's number one if they are to add to their 17 Premier League goals at Manchester City this afternoon, but in 23-year-old Tim Krul, Alan Pardew believes Newcastle have a viable long-term rival to Joe Hart.

Hart won his private battle against former Magpies shot-stopper Shay Given to cement a position as Roberto Mancini's preferred goalkeeper, and the youngster's form has been a key factor in his side's unbeaten side to the league campaign.

The same can be said of Krul, who has helped Newcastle achieve the best defensive record in the top-flight as they have recorded seven wins and four draws from their opening 11 games.

The pair go head-to-head this afternoon, with Pardew claiming there is precious little to choose between them.

"For the neutral, it'll be a good comparison between the two keepers," said the Newcastle boss. "They're both of similar size and have similar attributes.

"They're both very good on the back pass, their distribution is good and, of course, the most important thing is that they're great at making saves.

"They've both done terrific. Tim's been excellent for us, but I really like Joe Hart, he's an excellent goalie and he's done brilliantly for England."

Krul's emergence has effectively ended Steve Harper's Newcastle career, with the 36-year-old currently on loan at Championship side Brighton.

Harper is due to play the fifth and final game of his loan spell against Southampton today, but while he is reluctant to let the veteran remain on the south coast indefinitely, Pardew is happy to see him extend his spell at the Amex Stadium beyond the end of the week.

"I'm not sure about the Christmas period because it's a busy time," he said. "But for the next month, it looks okay. We'll have to get through Saturday unscathed ourselves and then have a look."

While Newcastle's goalkeeping resources remain strong following the arrival of Rob Elliot, injuries are beginning to stretch other areas of the squad.

Cheik Tiote and Sylvain Marveaux are definitely out of today's game, with Leon Best and Gabriel Obertan rated doubtful as they battle against knee and hamstring injuries respectively.

Marveaux's hip and groin problems are especially acute, and the French winger will travel to the United States next week to undergo surgery in the renowned Steadman Clinic in Colorado. As a result, he could be out of action until the turn of the year.

Obertan's injury is not as serious, but if, as expected, he fails to make today's game, Dan Gosling will line up on the right-hand side of midfield. If Best is unavailable, Pardew will choose between Hatem Ben Arfa, Peter Lovenkrands and Sammy Ameobi.

"We've considered the options I've got," he said. "Perhaps Dan Gosling as an extra midfield player or playing another striker like Peter Lovenkrands? You could play Hatem up there or even Sammy.

"Would Hatem come into the reckoning despite everything that happened in the match last year? Yeah."

* Newcastle outcast Nile Ranger is set to join Championship side Barnsley on loan until January 14.