- Premier League preview
Newcastle & Everton chase three very big points
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has suffered another defensive blow as he prepares for Wednesday night's tough Barclays Premier League clash with Everton.
Pardew will welcome back central defender Mike Williamson from a one-game ban but will be without full-back Danny Simpson for up to four games after he broke a toe in Saturday's 7-3 defeat at Arsenal.
Central defender Steven Taylor (hamstring) and midfielder Yohan Cabaye (groin surgery) have returned to training but are still some way from being available, while full-back Ryan Taylor (knee) and midfielders Vurnon Anita (ankle), Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) and Jonas Gutierrez, Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic (all knee) are still out.
Pardew is refusing to give up hope of persuading striker Demba Ba to stay at St James' Park. The 27-year-old is expected to be included in the squad despite mounting speculation that he will leave Tyneside during this month's transfer window.
Asked if he expects Ba to remain a Magpies player, Pardew said: "I still think it's even whether he will stay or go. In this window, I would like to think he will stay in the situation we are in. But that will be probably his decision.''
Pardew has already indicated that, should Ba stay this month, he will be sold during the summer if he refuses to sign a new contract which erases the controversial £7 million release clause which has caused the club such consternation in recent months.
Efforts to negotiate a more straightforward deal have so far come to nothing, and Pardew has warned the former Hoffenheim man that while that offer is still on the table, it may not be there for too much longer.
"The situation with that is that it's getting close to the point where we say 'no more', but the offer is still there,'' he said.
For Everton, midfielder Marouane Fellaini returns from a three-match suspension. His comeback will offset the loss of Darron Gibson with a thigh strain for a month. Kevin Mirallas (hamstring), Tony Hibbert (calf) and Seamus Coleman are all unlikely to feature but Phil Neville (knee) could return having been rested for the defeat by Chelsea.
Manager David Moyes rewarded defender Coleman with a new long-term deal and then expressed his hope there were more bargains like him to be found in the lower leagues. The 22-year-old cost the Toffees £60,000 when they bought him from Sligo Rovers in January 2009 and his progress since then has seen him establish himself in the first-team squad.
That development - and the potential for significantly more - saw Moyes tie the Irishman down to a new five-and-a-half-year contract.
"He deserves it as he's worked really hard since the early days when we brought him in from Ireland,'' said the Scot. "Seamus is one of the young boys. He is improving. He came as a right-back and we've used him wide right and he has got his chance to settle in and I feel I can use him in either position whenever needed.
"He's a long way to go to get to Leighton Baines' standard at the moment but that's why we've kept him for a long time because we think there's a chance of good improvement in him.
"Hopefully he will continue to improve. You need a good work ethic and Seamus has that and is improving all the time. We got him for very little money and it was great business by our scouts to spot him and bring him in.''
Key battle: There are plenty of individual battles on the pitch, but the key might be who wants victory most. Everton, currently five points behind Chelsea, cannot afford to drop points if they are to stay in the hunt for Champions League football, while Newcastle find themselves two points above the relegation zone.
Player to watch: All eyes on Demba Ba, who appears to thrive when in the shop window. Plenty of Premier League clubs are watching, will he follow up on his goalscoring display at Arsenal with another against Everton?
Talking point: Have Newcastle been guilty of rank-bad business by inserting such a low transfer clause in Ba's contract? Certainly no explanation has been offered to support conclusions to the contrary.
Bet of the day: Everton were extremely unlucky not to beat Chelsea, while Newcastle's defence is one of the poorest in the league. Take the visitors to win both halves at 10/3 with bet 365.