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Viduka return boosts Newcastle firepower

SoccerNews in English Premier League 29 Nov 2008

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Mark Viduka will have to settle for a place on the bench as Newcastle United's Australian international makes his long-awaited return from a career threatening injury.

Viduka will be among the substitutes when Newcastle make the short trip to his former club Middlesbrough for Saturday's English Premier League game at the Riverside Stadium.

Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear is set to stick with the front pairing of Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins, meaning Viduka will have to make do with at best a cameo role in what will be the striker's first appearance for six months following a lengthy Achilles problem.

Kinnear is more than satisfied with his attacking options following the 33-year-old's return to fitness, with Shola Ameobi completing what is an impressive forward quartet.

The interim manager admitted: “I've got some difficult decisions to make because both Shola and Obafemi have been scoring goals for us.”

Kinnear is looking forward to having Viduka at his disposal for the first time at a ground where the ex-Boro favourite scored against his old club last season.

He added: “I feel we've got a good balance with our men up front. We've got Oba's pace, Michael's technical ability as a goal scorer and the power of Mark and Shola.”

It's not all good news for Kinnear, who faces his latest touchline ban after being charged with improper conduct by the Football Association.

And in a double blow, the 61-year-old has been told to forget any plans he has to move for Norway international John Arne Riise in the January transfer window.

Kinnear has until December 12 to respond to the FA charge which could also see him earn a hefty fine for describing referee Martin Atkinson as 'Mickey Mouse' following Newcastle's 2-1 defeat at Fulham earlier this month.

The outspoken former Wimbledon manager has since issued an apology to the official, but that failed to spare him his latest run-in with Soho Square discipline chiefs.

Kinnear spent the first two games of his Newcastle reign in the stands earlier this season as he served a touchline ban carried over from his time in charge at Nottingham Forest.

To add to the Irishman's worries, he has learned there's no chance of landing Roma defender Riise – despite earlier insisting he was on the verge of clinching a two-million pound loan deal for the former Liverpool full-back.

Alan Shearer, the man tipped to eventually replace Kinnear, has meanwhile backed Owen to fire Newcastle to Premier League safety as they look for a victory over Middlesbrough to lift them out of the bottom three.

Owen has struck six times despite an injury-plagued start to the season, although the England international admits that the majority of his goals have been nothing more than consolation strikes.

But Shearer insisted: “Michael will always score goals. The secret of a natural finisher is that he'll always go back and make the right runs. A top striker like him is never afraid to miss because you know you can't score every time but that given a couple of chances you'll tuck one away.”

Steven Taylor has recovered from a groin problem, but the England Under-21 defender has to settle for a place on the bench with Viduka as Kinnear is likely to name an unchanged starting line-up.

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate is ready to give the side which lost 3-1 at home to Bolton last week a chance to make amends.

“We want to make the Riverside a fortress, but we have to earn the right to do that,” he said.

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