Newcastle pair Kevin Nolan and Steve Harper have been ruled out for the final two games of the season to go under the surgeon’s knife. Nolan needs a minor operation for an ankle problem while Harper will undergo surgery on his knee. Club captain Nolan has been struggling with his ankle for the majority of the campaign but with safety secured he can now enjoy a much needed break. The former Bolton player has again been an influential figure for the Magpies with his 12 goals from midfield helping to ease the loss of Andy Carroll. His undoubted highlight was a hat-trick against local rivals Sunderland to make him a club legend. Harper has missed the past few league games and a decision has finally been made to send him for surgery. The plan is for the experienced pair to be back in time for the beginning of pre-season training in July.
With Harper absent, his understudy Tim Krul will continue to deputise in goal against Chelsea on Sunday. However, Alan Pardew’s biggest selection headache comes in the midfield with his options once again severely depleted. Nolan has joined the likes of Danny Guthrie, Dan Gosling and Hatem Ben Arfa on the treatment table while Stephen Ireland has returned to his parent club. Pardew will no doubt have been hoping to rest Cheik Tiote for the remainder of the season to prevent him from picking up another caution to trigger a three match ban. But with options severely limited the Ivorian may be needed against Chelsea to give the Magpies some presence in the middle of the pitch. Alan Smith has only recently returned to training but is still some way off match fitness.
Despite their injury problems Newcastle will be hoping to stay the season undefeated against Chelsea. In their two previous meetings this term the sides were held to a draw at St James’ Park but the Magpies were victorious at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup. In that game the away side won 4-3 with Shola Ameobi scoring twice to continue his good scoring record against the west London club. However, history is against Newcastle to repeat that feat in the league with their last win coming back in 1986.
Depending on the result from the Manchester United game a day earlier there could be little other than pride to play for come Sunday. One player in particular in black and white will be keen to play his part for the Red Devils if needed. Right-back Danny Simpson spent the early part of his career at Old Trafford before being made surplus to requirements. He said: “I