Fabricio Coloccini’s set for a reprieve at the heart of Steve McClaren’s defence – after Mike Williamson suffered an injury.
Williamson’s was this week recalled from an emergency loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Head coach McClaren took the decision to recall the defender in the wake of last weekend’s 5-1 defeat to Crystal Palace and a hamstring injury suffered by Jamaal Lascelles.
But Williamson – whose loan at Molineux had been extended until January 16 – is doubtful for Sunday’s home game against Liverpool.
The 32-year-old “tweaked his hamstring” in training on Tyneside and is having a scan ahead of the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s in-form side to St James’s Park.
Lascelles is also unavailable along with midfielder Cheick Tiote, who has a hamstring problem.
He has tweaked his hamstring in training. He has to have a scan. We’ll know more later, but it’s a worry.
Asked if Williamson had a chance of starting, McClaren said: “We would have looked at that this week, but he has tweaked his hamstring in training.
“He has to have a scan. We’ll know more later, but it’s a worry.”
McClaren had hoped to have Tiote available again for the Liverpool game, but the 29-year-old has failed to recover in time from the injury he suffered in the home defeat to Leicester City last month.
Lascelles, meanwhile, suffered a hamstring problem after coming off the bench at Selhurst Park last Saturday.
McClaren had been considering dropping captain Coloccini, who has struggled for form this season.
Coloccini was particularly poor against Palace.