Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has warned returning midfielder Cheick Tiote to keep on the right side of referee Lee Probert in Tuesday night's clash with Manchester United.
The Ivory Coast international returns from his third suspension of the season - a two-game ban for reaching 10 bookings - to face the Barclays Premier League leaders.
Tiote has been one of the finds of the season, but his disciplinary record has been less than impressive.
He racked up five bookings - four of them in successive games - and a one-match ban by the middle of November, and then incurred a three-match ban, perhaps harshly, for his sending off in the FA Cup third-round defeat at Stevenage on January 8.
He has missed five of Pardew's 16 league games in charge through suspension and has been told to address the problem as a matter of urgency, particularly on a night when Sir Alex Ferguson will be at St James' Park.
Pardew said: "I haven't had that many Premier League games but he has missed five of them, and that can't be right. He can be overzealous at times.
"The referee will be important in this game. I don't want the Manchester United factor, with Alex and the way he is with referees, to come into play.
"It will be important for Alex and myself that 11 players are on the pitch at the end of the game because there is going to be a bit of feistiness in it."
However, Pardew is desperate for Tiote not to sacrifice his high-octane approach to his destructive role in the middle of the field.
He added: "It's an important balance and he needs to get that right.
"He is important to us and we have missed him. We missed him against Aston Villa with the pace they have in the team and having him back in the side is going to help us considerably."
Tiote will be joined in the squad by midfielder Stephen Ireland for the first time since his January loan move from Villa.
The 24-year-old arrived with a knee injury, then picked up a thigh problem in training and spent the bulk of last week at the bedside of partner Jessica Lawlor after she suffered multiple injuries in a car accident.
Ireland has a chance of being involved, but goalkeeper Steve Harper is a doubt after having an injection for a knee injury, while striker Shola Ameobi is touch and go with a similar problem.
Dutchman Tim Krul is standing by to take over from Harper for a game in which victory would edge United closer to the title and go some way towards making up for their FA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Manchester City at the weekend.
Red Devils goalkeeper Edwin Van der Saar expects United to bounce back from that defeat at St James` Park.
"It won't be difficult to pick ourselves up," he said.
"We know how important the league is. We are in first position, so we just have to make the best of it.
"We were a little bit tired (on Saturday). The pace of our game was not quick enough.
"We have played a big number of games in the last three or four weeks and against Newcastle we must do better."
After a draining and disappointing day, United could not have hoped for a better outcome to Sunday's game at the Emirates.
They now know 13 points from their last six games will be enough to claim the title for a record 19th time.
It could be less than that too, as United still have their two closest rivals to play at the start of next month, Chelsea heading to Old Trafford on May 8, seven days after the Red Devils have visited the Emirates.
Neither game will hold any fears, particularly if United can get the setback against City straight out of their system.
Sir Alex Ferguson's team have an excellent record at St James' Park and prior to Saturday's defeat they had won six matches on the trot.
"It is always nicer when you find form straight away," added Van der Sar.
"We were a bit scrappy in the first half of the season and conceded some last-minute goals that cost us a few points.
"When things like that happen, it doesn't do your self-confidence a lot of good.
"On the positive side, you need mental strength in certain games when you keep conceding in the last minute or the ball is not going in.
"It shows the strength of character and the belief this manager has in the quality of his team that we were able to come through those moments."
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