Newcastle v Birmingham preview
Alan Pardew's hopes for a top-10 finish for Newcastle have been rocked by a double injury blow.
Last Updated: 07/05/11 12:20pm
Alan Pardew's hopes for a top-10 finish for Newcastle have been rocked by a double injury blow ahead of Birmingham's visit.
The Magpies have manage to extinguish their fear of relegation and currently sit 12th in the table with 41 points.
A finish in the top half of the Premier League would be a real achievement for Pardew's team on their return to the division.
They suffered a setback at Anfield last week where they were well beaten on the day by a resurgent Liverpool team.
And with fixtures against Chelsea and West Brom to follow , they will enter this game full of optimism for the three points.
Birmingham managed to garner a point in the Midlands derby against Wolves last weekend as they look and claw their way to safety.
Alex McLeish's men are just one shy of that magical 40-point barrier but have shown some signs of improvement of late.
However, with three games left of the campaign, and two points likely to be needed to assure their presence in the league next term, it is not all doom and gloom.
But their record at St James' Park will concern them; they have lost in three of their last four visits and only have a solitary league win there in 36 years.
Newcastle defender Mike Williamson will miss the rest of the season after breaking his arm in a freak training ground incident.
Williamson should be replaced by former England Under-21 international Steven Taylor.
Hatem Ben Arfa has also returned to France after suffering a minor setback in training. The winger had looked close to fitness after his broken leg but will not be risked for the remainder of the term.
Alan Smith has returned to training after recovering from a shattered ankle that he suffered in January but he too will not be risked this season.
Tim Krul looks set to retain his place between the sticks despite Steve Harper recovering from a knock to press home claims for the No.1 jersey.
Stephen Ireland (ankle), Danny Guthrie (foot) and Dan Gosling (foot) are all still sideline for the rest of the term.
Nikola Zigic could return for the last three games of the season for Blues.
The gangly Serbia striker has been hampered by injury over the last few months and he would be a welcome boost to a goal-shy attack.
David Bentley is poised to be included in the squad after leaving the ground last weekend after hearing he would not be part of the squad to face Wolves.
Craig Gardner is suspended after being dismissed against Wolves last week.
Possible starting XIs
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Taylor, Enrique, Barton, Tiote, Gutierrez, Nolan, Ameobi, Lovenkrands.
Birmingham: Foster, Carr, Johnson, Jiranek, Ridgewell, Larsson, Fahey, Bentley, Bowyer, Zigic, Jerome.