NEWCASTLE United are battling to head off a bitter club-versus-country row which could stop Papiss Cissé from spearheading the Magpies’ attack against Swansea.
The Senegalese FA are ready to invoke Fifa’s ‘five-day rule’ which prevents players from playing if they are unable to provide an acceptable explanation for someone crying off international duty.
United are adamant, though, they provided full details of the back injury which prompted Cissé (pictured right) to drop out of the squad which faced Niger this week.
Newcastle were working furiously behind the scenes to try and resolve the issue last night and expect to have the matter resolved this morning.
Club sources indicated after providing full medical records to the Senegalese FA their anger is misplaced, while the striker himself is understood to be dismayed at his country’s stance over the matter.
United hope diplomacy will settle the problem, and are fully aware the row could have major consequences for the club, Cissé and Senegal if it is not resolved.
With Demba Ba also on their books, United have always enjoyed amicable relations with the Senegalese FA and were quietly optimistic that a solution can be found.
Newcastle boss Pardew said yesterday: “I want to be diplomatic. I don’t want to fall out with Senegal.
“Hopefully, with communication, the lines will come together and we can put it right. We have Demba and Papiss so we don’t want this.”
Fifa’s five-day rule was installed to prevent clubs blocking their players from playing in internationals without sufficient reason and has been used in the past.
Newcastle’s rivals Sunderland were caught up in a similar row when Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards were withdrawn from a Trinidad and Tobago friendly against Jamaica – but the federation backed down at the last minute.
Either way, the uncertainty is hardly likely to help Cissé as he looks to return to the form which made him an instant hit in black and white.
Pardew admitted they had been working on ways to make him more prolific this week and suggested that part of the reason for his lack of goals was due to the way the midfield had failed to function properly.
He also rejected talk the formation had altered significantly from the 4-3-3 system which saw him hit 13 goals from January until the end of last season.
Pardew added: “It is not an ideal scenario leading up to a game when a guy we are trying to get to hit his best form has this over him.
“We need to create more opportunities for him. We are trying to work on procedures in the team, more chances for him. I think he will find his best form and his form is mirroring the team a little bit.
“We have not changed the system. Demba played many games defensively out there but then Demba would join him as a pair during the games. I don’t think that’s it.
“I think Cheick (Tiote) has had a disjointed season. (Yohan) Cabaye has a groin problem and that has meant he has not been at full capacity, so that’s been a big thing behind Cissé.
“The three midfielders have proved a problem for us when we have faced them and we have that same scenario on Saturday against Swansea because otherwise one of the strikers will have to play on the side.
“A big part of our success last year was those two midfielders coped with the threat of three midfielders, with the help of Demba.”
United will be missing influential players tomorrow, with Fabricio Coloccini (suspended), Cabaye and Jonás Gutiérrez (knee) all ruled out.
However, the news on Gutiérrez is positive, with Pardew expecting him to return in time for the Southampton game a week on Sunday.