Date: 3rd May 2009 at 3:53pm
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Newcastle United face an uphill task of staving off relegation after midfielder Joey Barton is ruled out of the next three games by suspension.

Referee Phil Dowd sent-off the 26-year-old Liverpool-born player after a hard tackle on Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso, who left the field on a stretcher, just before he was going to be substituted anyway by Rafael Benitez.

As a martyr, it is always good to exit the field, Alonso will feel, and expect the talented actor to return next week for the Reds. Rafael Benitez has already confirmed that Alonso will be fit ‘in the next few days’ and will return for the title bid. So, all that drama does not seem warranted now, does it?

The more pressing issue, however, is that Joey Barton, who has only come back into the squad is out of the next three games, which leaves the match at Aston Villa on the final day of the season the only match he can take part in.

Alan Shearer will be advised to launch an appeal with the FA regarding the decision, it is being said, but with relegation now a natural end for the season, and high-profile players inevitably on their way out of the Toon if relegated, Joey Barton may have played his last game for the Magpies.