Steve Bruce revealed he is yet to field his preferred XI at Newcastle this season and his plans to do so at Crystal Palace have been disrupted by three positive coronavirus tests at the club.
Callum Wilson is available again after a hamstring injury precluded his involvement against Chelsea last week when Jonjo Shelvey was an unused substitute after a number of weeks on the sidelines following hernia surgery.
But Bruce's preparations ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park have been hit by a minor COVID-19 outbreak and, while he refused to disclose the identities of the trio, he admitted one of the individuals would have started on Friday.
"One player in particular would have played, there's nothing we can do about it," the Newcastle head coach said.
"It's the first time now where we're a bit anxious because we've had three in a week and in and around the training ground bubble, it's not great. The three individuals are self-isolating at the moment.
"The protocols we've had in place for eight months have been terrific but we have seen, unfortunately, a rise in the last couple of weeks. Whether that's just coincidental with internationals and people being away I don't know.
"We'll have to manage the group and respect it exactly for what it is but it is difficult."
Newcastle started this month with an impressive win over Everton but Bruce has faced criticism following defeats to Southampton and Chelsea, both of whom went temporarily top of the Premier League table after beating the Magpies.
Bruce, who will welcome back Matt Ritchie from a shoulder injury but is set to be without Ryan Fraser again because of a hamstring issue, acknowledged their two most recent displays were unacceptable.
While he says he understands fans' frustrations and knows he will be judged by results over the course of a season, Bruce feels he has been unable to select what he feels is his best side in the first nine games of the campaign.
"The support we've got is unbelievable, they're right that they're not happy at the minute because they haven't seen their team play well enough," Bruce said.
"(But) I haven't played the team that I think is my strongest team yet. For whatever reason, for whatever injury, we haven't had Jonjo, we haven't had Ryan, we haven't had Callum, we haven't had Miggy (Miguel Almiron).
"All I can do is focus on getting a reaction and playing better. To do that, either change formation or personnel. I'll be looking at that to try and get the result which we need at this particular time.
"My aim is to try to take us forward and that's not going to be overnight because we simply can't go and do that. We haven't got the money to do that and that's the way it is. We have to accept that progress is slow."
Bruce, who claimed he has not had any feedback from the club's hierarchy regarding recent results, was told during his press conference Newcastle had been placed in the highest level of coronavirus tier restrictions.
Some clubs will be able to welcome back a limited number of supporters but Newcastle being put in tier three scuppers their hopes of welcoming fans back to St James' Park anytime soon.
"That's difficult, not just for fans by the way, but for the people of the north east," Bruce said.
Bruce thinks clubs who can let some spectators return to the stadiums is a "small advantage" for them before reiterating his disdain for matches being held behind closed doors.
"We may as well be playing in a training ground," he added. "The whole build-up to a game is not quite the same and never will be, especially when we've got something like 50,000.
"The advantage we have of why St James' Park is always notoriously difficult to come and play has been taken away."