HATEM Ben Arfa is battling to be fit to face Crystal Palace – and give Newcastle United a cutting edge.
The forward hasn’t featured for the club in more than a month.
Ben Arfa had a knock, and was also given a week’s leave because of what manager Alan Pardew described as a “family issue”.
However, the 27-year-old worked over the weekend with a fitness coach, and Pardew is hopeful he will be available for Saturday’s home game against Palace, which leading scorer Loic Remy will miss through injury.
In Remy’s absence this season, United have not scored in the Premier League.
And Ben Arfa – who has stepped up his work this week – would give Pardew a welcome extra attacking option.
John Carver, Newcastle’s assistant manager, felt the team lacked “quality” in the final third in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Fulham, though he didn’t have an issue with the players’ work-rate at Craven Cottage.
“The one thing I would say is that we did just lack that little bit of quality in the final third,” Carver said.
“The final pass wasn’t great. But as always, this group of players work extremely hard for each other.
“We possibly didn’t have the same energy levels we did at Hull (when United won 4-1), but we had different players on the pitch.”
Pardew could also welcome back defender Davide Santon – who has been sidelined in recent weeks with a knee problem – for the visit of his former club to St James’s Park.