DAVIDE Santon is set to miss Newcastle United’s season-opener at Manchester City – leaving Alan Pardew with a dilemma over who faces Jesus Navas.
The left back is struggling for fitness, and isn’t expected to be available for Monday night’s game at Eastlands.
And United manager Alan Pardew will assess his options ahead of the televised game.
Versatile defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa can play at left back, while 21-year-old Paul Dummett is pushing for his Premier League debut.
Yanga-Mbiwa can play across the back four, while Dummett – who has impressed in pre-season – is a natural left-back.
Whoever gets the nod will face an unenviable challenge given the pace and ability of Navas, signed from Sevilla in a £15m deal this summer.
United’s other left-back, 20-year-old Massadio Haidara, hasn’t featured during pre-season because of a niggling injury.
Pardew’s only other concern is midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, who suffered a thigh strain in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Braga at St James’s Park.
Defender Steven Taylor sat out training yesterday, but is expected to be fit to face City.
“Jonas Gutierrez has got a slight strain, but we think he’ll be OK,” said Pardew.
Meanwhile, City striker Sergio Aguero is in contention to face Newcastle after overcoming a knee injury, but defender Matija Nastasic is missing due to an ankle problem.
New signings Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic could all make their debuts in what will be Manuel Pellegrini’s first competitive game in charge.
Pellegrini has backed Joe Hart to defy critics and prove he is England’s best goalkeeper.
Hart’s status as Roy Hodgson’s first choice has come under renewed scrutiny after an error in the midweek friendly against Scotland at Wembley.
Hart was at fault for Scotland’s first goal, scored by West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison.
But Pellegrini said: “I think Joe Hart has to demonstrate why he is the best goalkeeper in England every week he plays.
“He’s a very important goalkeeper, I have a lot of trust in him.
“Everyone can make an error, but personally I have a lot of trust in Joe.”