HATEM Ben Arfa could still be Newcastle United’s match-winner at the Liberty Stadium – despite his lack of fitness.
Manager Alan Pardew says Ben Arfa could still get a “cameo” against Swansea City tomorrow – even though he has concerns about the forward’s “conditioning”.
Pardew yesterday revealed Ben Arfa was still short of fitness.
The 25-year-old is back in full training after recovering from the hamstring injury he originally suffered in November.
However, Ben Arfa – who Pardew hoped would be ready to start against Anzhi Makhachkala in next Thursday’s Europa League clash in Moscow – is a “long way off where he should be”, according to Pardew.
But that won’t stop Pardew taking the France international to South Wales.
“I’m always tempted to take Hatem,” Pardew said. “If his leg was in half, I’d still be tempted to take him.
“But he isn’t ready – our fans need to understand that. He’s a long way off where he should be because of the extent of the injury.
“We’re trying to push him, but we’re also taking care of him. It’s a delicate balance. I thought, possibly, he could start on Thursday. I’m doubtful about that now.
“But I could take him to Swansea and use him in a cameo role. Playing five or 10 minutes, when we might need a goal, ain’t the same as playing half a game, let alone a full game.”
Ben Arfa suffered the injury in a Europa League group game against Maritimo at St James’s Park, and made a comeback in December. He scored in United’s defeat to Fulham, but suffered a recurrence of the problem.
He has done the bulk of his rehabilitation at Clairefontaine, the home of France’s national team.
Meanwhile, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup admits he is worried that there could be a “negative reaction” from his team to last weekend’s Capital One Cup final win over Bradford City at Wembley.
“There might be a negative reaction after winning the cup,” he said. “I hope not – but it’s a possibility.
“I hope the players go out and play the best game of the season, because this is the first game after the cup final. We’re playing at home in front of our fans with the cup on display.
“The fact we are now in the Europa League next season has nothing to do with our Premier League form, because we didn’t start the season thinking about Europe.”