After manager Alan Pardew had confidently declared them to be safe from relegation following their 2-1 victory at home to Stoke in early March, Newcastle must face up to the prospect of needing a win against Fulham to give them some breathing space as their relegation rivals continue to close the gap on them.
Sidetracked by their Europa League progress, the Magpies have lost their last two league games on the bounce and coupled with the improved form of the likes of Southampton, Wigan and Aston Villa, are now just three points above the drop zone.
Pardew’s already injury-depleted squad suffered more losses in their Europa League quarter final first-leg defeat in Benfica on Thursday, with James Perch and Moussa Sissoko picking up possible injuries.
Those losses could be added to by Mathieu Debuchy and Cheick Tiote, who are both struggling with hamstring injuries. Massadio Haidara, Ryan Taylor (both knee), Fabricio Coloccini (back) and Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) are all long-term absentees but Tim Krul should take his place in goal after returning from injury in Lisbon.
Fulham secured their place in the Premier League for next season with a thrilling 3-2 win over West London rivals QPR on Monday night to take their good run to five matches without defeat, three of those being victories. With Swansea and West Brom just beginning to stutter above them, Martin Jol’s men could even better last season’s 9th-place finish under the Dutchman.
The Cottagers will be without Steve Sidwell after his red card on Monday night but will be able to call upon the in-form Dimitar Berbatov, whose two goals against the Rs took his tally to five in four matches.
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