Former Panathinaikos midfielder Mehdi Abeid set for Newcastle United start

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MEHDI Abeid closer than ever to first-team football at Newcastle United.

The midfielder’s days at St James’s Park were seemingly numbered when he was shipped out on loan a year ago.

But Abeid starred during his year at Panathinaikos, helping the Athens club – whose technical director is former Newcastle defender Nicos Dabizas – win the Greek Cup.

Panathinaikos were keen to sign him on a permanent deal after his good spell.

United manager Alan Pardew, however, has all but ruled out a move for the 22-year-old, who could get a chance in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie against Gillingham.

The Algerian U23 ace, an unused substitute against Manchester City at St James’s Park last weekend, was in the squad for this afternoon’s game at Aston Villa.

Pardew said: “I’ve been impressed with him in his pre-season work and he’s closer now than he’s ever been to the first team.

“I think he’ll be all year battling for a place. He hasn’t started, as you know, but he’s very much in my thoughts.”

Pardew was kept informed of Abeid’s progress in Greece.

“It was a season where he did absolutely terrifically on loan,” said Pardew.

“There are still question marks, obviously, but he’s a lot closer to the group.”

Abeid joined Newcastle from Lens in the summer of 2011.

A technically-gifted player, Abeid can play as a defensive or attacking midfielder.