DAVIDE Santon and Jonas Gutierrez could be available for Newcastle United’s New Year’s Day home game against Burnley.
The pair will play in a specially-arranged behind-closed-doors game to top up their fitness.
Santon is yet to play this season after summer knee surgery, while Gutierrez has returned to the club earlier this month after being given the all-clear after treatment for testicular cancer.
And injury-hit Newcastle manager Alan Pardew – without nine senior players for yesterday’s 3-1 defeat at Manchester United – is keen to have them back – sooner rather than later.
“They need some match time – those guys are going to get a game,” said Pardew.
Defender Santon has not yet played an Under-21 fixture for the club since returning to training, but he has been working hard on his fitness over the past few weeks.
Gutierrez – who hasn’t played a first-team game for the club since September last year – played 87 minutes of Newcastle’s Under-21 Premier League win over West Ham United on Monday.
Pardew, again under pressure after four successive league and cup defeats, had previously talked about the 31-year-old winger being available late next month.
The Burnley match is quickly followed by a third-round FA Cup tie away to Leicester City on January 3.