FABRICIO Coloccini is putting in overtime in a bid to be fit for Aston Villa’s visit to St James’s Park.
Newcastle United’s influential captain is back in full training at the club’s training HQ ahead of Sunday’s vital Premier League fixture.
Coloccini – who has been sidelined for the last seven weeks – worked on his fitness over the weekend.
And United manager Alan Pardew is hopeful the defender will be fit enough to lead from the back as the out-of-sorts Magpies looks to put an end to a miserable three-game losing streak.
“Colo’s worked hard, and he’s looking better,” Pardew told SportMail.
“He was in all weekend, so he’s had four or five days.”
Coloccini suffered medial ligament damage in Newcastle’s New Year’s Day defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
And the 32-year-old, who was allowed to return to his native Argentina for his rehabilitation, returned to Tyneside early last week in readiness for his return to action.
The Argentina international talked of his “frustration” at his latest enforced lay-off in his programme notes for last Wednesday’s home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
Pardew will also have Loic Remy available, with the forward having served a three-match ban for his dismissal against Norwich City at Carrow Road late last month.
And midfielder Cheik Tiote (hamstring) could also return after a two-game absence.
“Loic is available, Cheik’s running well and Colo’s trained,” added under-fire Pardew, whose team are ninth in the Premier League table with 12 games left to play.
Villa, meanwhile, are battling the threat of relegation. Paul Lambert’s 12th-placed side are four points above the drop zone.
United won 2-1 at Villa Park in September thanks to goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran.
l NEWCASTLE United’s FA Youth Cup success has given the beleaguered club a much-needed lift.
Pardew has praised United’s U18 side for a “gritty” fifth-round 1-0 victory over Derby County at Pride Park.
A superb goal on the hour from 17-year-old striker Adam Armstrong sent the youngsters into the quarter-finals of the competition at the weekend.
United will face the winners of tonight’s tie between Cardiff City and Chelsea in the last eight of the FA Youth Cup, last won by Newcastle in 1985 when Paul Gascoigne was coming up through the ranks.
“We said to the youth team it would be great if they could give us a lift,” Pardew said.
“The results of the first team haven’t been great, and we needed a lift from the other part of the club.
“They did that. It was a gritty performance because of the conditions, and a bad injury suffered in the game.
“Arma got the winner, and they got a clean sheet.
“We’ve relied on local talent and a couple of players we’ve brought in.”