By Chief Sports Writer, Marley Anderson

After a week filled with rumours of dressing room splits, top players eyeing a move to other clubs and banning orders being placed on journalists, Newcastle United must turn their full attention on the task in hand this Saturday: beating West Ham at Upton Park.

The Magpies must get a positive result from the trip to the capital if they are to pull themselves away from the relegation zone once and for all, as the battle to escape the drop intensifies after Aston Villa crushed Sunderland on Monday night.

As always seems to be the case with must-win games for Newcastle, there are a couple of potentially damaging sub-plots to be wary of. Alan Pardew will face his old club once again, while Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan will be in the Hammers’ team and be looking to cause damage for their old employers.

Talk throughout the week has surrounded a potential dressing room split at St James’ Park, with the French players supposedly becoming sick of being the scapegoats for Newcastle’s recent poor run. The rumours culminated in a statement from Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote, who insisted that there was no split in the camp and everyone was pulling in the same direction.

The statement will certainly be tested by West Ham, who will inevitably look to exploit the defensive frailties that Newcastle so clearly showed against Liverpool. Andy Carroll will rough up the likes of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Steven Taylor as Sam Allardyce utilises his “route 1” tactic.

A boost for the Geordies comes in the shape of club captain Fabricio Coloccini expected to return to action after recovering from two broken bones in his back. The aerial threat posed by Carroll could be nullified by the experience of the Argentine, who could replace Yanga-Mbiwa and partner Taylor in central defence.

Mathieu Debuchy’s season is over after being sent off against Liverpool last week and that leaves a place at right-back up for grabs, which could mean a rare Premier League start for Danny Simpson. Another option is Vurnon Anita, who continues to warm the bench despite others around him hardly doing enough to be automatic picks.

Hatem Ben Arfa should finally start a game after making a series of cameo appearances (mostly when Newcastle were already losing) and could be the key to Newcastle doing the business, as they have looked woefully short of creativity in recent displays.

Davide Santon and long-term injury victims Haris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor remain sidelined, while hamstring-troubled Sylvain Marveaux will also be unavailable.

As for West Ham, Big Sam will be without James Tomkins and George McCartney but other than those two, should be able to pick from a strong squad.

A win for Newcastle would all but guarantee their Premier League survival, while a loss coupled with win for Wigan at West Brom could reduce the cushion that Newcastle currently have to just two points with two games to go.