Ben Arfa is a doubt for Newcastle Utd’s clash with Aston Villa

Hatem Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa

HATEM Ben Arfa is a doubt for Newcastle United’s home game against Aston Villa.

The forward will today be given a fitness test ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League match at St James’s Park.

Ben Arfa came off the bench in last week’s 4-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.

And United manager Alan Pardew had been looking for the 26-year-old to push hard for a starting place against Villa this week.

But the odds are against Ben Arfa – who sat out yesterday’s training session – being involved when the club will look to end a run of five successive home defeats.

“Hatem’s got a knock,” Pardew said.

“He didn’t train, and I’m not sure he’s going to make it.”

Ben Arfa was unplayable in Newcastle’s 2-1 win at Villa Park early this season, when he opened his seasonal account.

But he has struggled for form and fitness since that afternoon, and could well have again been named among the substitutes for the return fixture.

However, 11-goal forward Loic Remy – who set up Ben Arfa’s goal against Villa – is again available after a serving a three-game suspension for his dismissal against Norwich City late last month.

Remy, on a season-long loan from Championship club Queens Park Rangers, learnt this week that he would face no action over a rape allegation for which he had been arrested.

And Pardew will name Remy – who has played with a “freedom” in training over the past few days – in his starting XI.

“One thing that is for certain is that Loic will return,” said Pardew, whose side haven’t won a home game since Boxing Day.

“He’s an important factor in the way we’ve played this year.

“Take him and (Yohan) Cabaye out of the team, and it’s a big, big blow to us.

“To have him back has been a big lift for everybody. He, in himself, has got a lift. There’s a freedom to him.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle were yesterday knocked out of the Under-21 Premier League cup by Manchester City yesterday.

United took a 2-0 lead at the club’s Benton training ground– Michael Richardson scored both goals – but City fought back and strikes from Sinan Bytyqi, Jordy Hiwula and Marcos Lopes and booked the visitors a semi-final place.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Alnwick, Sterry, McKinnon, Williams, Satka, Kemen (Gilliead, 58), Richardson, Olley (L Smith, 77), Quinn, Armstrong, Aarons