By Chief Sports Writer, Marley Anderson

After a more encouraging display against Fulham on Monday night, Newcastle’s next opposition comes in the form of Premier League champions Manchester City tomorrow lunchtime. Both sides aren’t in the greatest of form, as Roberto Mancini’s side are winless in three games and suffered their first league loss of the season last Sunday, when Robin Van Persie’s late free-kick gave city neighbours Man United the bragging rights.

One of the bright lights from Newcastle’s performance against Fulham came from Hatem Ben Arfa, who struck another wonder goal and inspired his team with his usual mazy dribbling and clever playmaking. However, after being brought off early the Frenchman is a doubt for tomorrow’s game and may miss out, making the home side’s job a great deal harder.

Add to that the likes of Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Yohan Cabaye, Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic who are also missing and the Geordies’ task is stacking up to be near impossible.

Alan Pardew has to decide whether Shola Ameobi or Papiss Cisse start up front (or on the right wing) with Demba Ba, after the Senegal striker’s shocking run of form continued last time out. Cisse looks bereft of confidence after only scoring twice this season (one of those he knew nothing about) and it has affected his whole game. His touch, intelligence and movement are all far from what we seen last season and his inability to stay onside is embarrassing. For that reason, a more physical approach to the game could be adopted, with Shola chosen to bully the potentially vulnerable Matija Nastastic in City’s defence.

As for the champions, Vincent Kompany is likely to miss out after limping out of last week’s Manchester derby with a troublesome ankle injury, so Joleon Lescott could partner Nastasic in the heart of defence. Former Newcastle man James Milner is injured and Gareth Barry – who once broke up the infamous scrap between Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer at St James Park some time ago – will also miss out through suspension.

Mancini is likely to once again rotate his fearsome quartet of strikers, as Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and the enigmatic Mario Balotelli all hope for a start. Balotelli threw another strop last week when he was subbed so the Italian may not be surprised to be left out tomorrow. Maybe the constant rotation is the reason City have only found the net nine times away for home this season. They have been excellent at the other end though, only conceding five times and keeping three clean sheets on the bounce.

A win for Newcastle would be massive in terms of their league position, as the scary end of the table tightens up thanks to Sunderland winning on Tuesday night. A loss, coupled with wins for the teams around them could leave Newcastle on the verge of the relegation zone. A win – however unlikely – wouldn’t move Newcastle any further up the league, but would give them some more breathing space on the teams around them.