Newcastle boss eyes fitness boost for Fulham clash

FITNESS HOPE ... Hatem Ben Arfa.
FITNESS HOPE ... Hatem Ben Arfa.

ALAN Pardew’s confident he’ll have a clutch of key players back for Newcastle United’s visit to Fulham.

Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote are all set to return to training ahead of Monday night’s televised game.

Gabriel Obertan is also close to returning from a niggling toe problem.

They didn’t travel with the squad to France for last night’s Europa League game against Bordeaux, which ended in a 2-0 loss for Pardew’s side.

Ben Arfa suffered a hamstring problem in the home game against Maritimo last month, and Pardew’s looking forward to having his creativity and pace back at Craven Cottage, where he scored in last season’s 5-2 defeat.

“The good news from the camp is that I’m hoping most of the guys left behind can train (today), if not Sunday,” Pardew told the Gazette.

“We can go into Monday in a lot healthier position with the best possible players we can.

“Hatem’s got a chance, as has Obertan, Jonas, Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote. I’m hoping at least three of those can train, and the rest on Sunday.”

Pardew fielded a relatively inexperienced side against Bordeaux, and he had few complaints about the result.

Francis Gillot’s team dominated the game, and Cheick Diabate scored a goal in each half. The result saw them top Group D.

“That was probably the weakest squad I’ve had to pick from in terms of senior players,” added Pardew.

“There was no one left behind who was fit. We took everybody, but I did have an eye on Monday.”