Newcastle's woeful 2015-16 season is showing no signs of imminent improvement ahead of the visit of Liverpool, after Steve McClaren revealed defender Mike Williamson has suffered a hamstring injury in training.
The blow comes just two days after the defender was prematurely recalled from his loan spell at Championship club Wolves in order to provide competition for the likes of Fabricio Coloccini and Chancel Mbemba following a similar problem sustained by fellow centre-back Jamaal Lascelles.
The Magpies currently sit 19th in the Premier League following a dismal run of just two victories from their opening 14 fixtures, with only the hapless Aston Villa preventing them from sinking any further. Despite only being appointed as permanent successor to John Carver in June, McClaren finds himself under significant pressure from supporters after the 5-1 drubbing at Crystal Palace was preceded by reports in The Telegraph claiming there had been frequent heated exchanges between the manager and his players on the training ground.
Consecutive fixtures against top-four hopefuls Liverpool and Tottenham will do little to lighten the increasingly dark mood engulfing St James' Park, particularly when you consider how ruthless the former appeared during their Capital One Cup quarter-final demolition of Southampton on 2 December. The injury problems afflicting Newcastle could not have come at a worse time and it seems McClaren will have to rely on one or two inexperienced youngsters to make up the numbers against Jurgen Klopp's in-form side.
"Including a couple of kids, we've got 18 players for Sunday," he confirmed in a press conference. "Williamson has tweaked his hamstring and will have a scan."
Although Williamson was dispatched to the Football League as something of an afterthought, Newcastle's recent form meant he was vying for a likely start against Liverpool. The 32-year-old made five appearances in total for Wolves and did enough to convince Kenny Jackett to extend his loan deal until January 2016. Combative midfielder Cheick Tioté also remains sidelined due to a groin issue picked up in the 3-0 home defeat to Leicester City in November.
"Nobody is happy here," a resolute McClaren continued. "We've lost the last two games and not played very well. Confidence can go as quickly as it comes. The next game is always an opportunity to build a performance, get a result and the confidence can come back.
"The mood is focused and determined, and we know that we can turn it around with one result because we have good players. The fans can be so influential and we need everyone together [on Sunday] no matter what."