HATEM Ben Arfa’s ready to join Newcastle United’s Europa League campaign – but manager Alan Pardew is reluctant to start him against Bordeaux tonight.
Ben Arfa now has served a three-match European suspension, dating back to his time at Olympique Marseille, and is available to Pardew.
However, the 25-year-old – who has been outstanding in the Premier League this season – is unlikely to be named in Pardew’s starting XI.
Pardew, while mindful of Sunday’s home game against Manchester United, has pledged to name a stronger Europa League team given the strength of Bordeaux, who beat Club Brugge 4-0 last month in the first round of group stages games.
“Hatem’s obviously a player that’s important to us – he’s been excellent this season,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“But we’ve only got a two-day turnaround before Man United.
“So I have to take that into consideration, but the team will definitely be stronger.
“Our fans will be expecting us to put in a good performance against Bordeaux – we’re under no illusions about that.”
Meanwhile, Ben Arfa’s French countryman Yohan Cabaye has paid tribute to the forward’s impact on the field this season.
He has scored two goals, and been the team’s creative force, after returning to England after France’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, which ended in acrimony and a warning for Ben Arfa after a bust-up with then-coach Laurent Blanc.
However, there has been no hangover from the French football federation’s disciplinary action against Ben Arfa.
“I haven’t spoken to him about what happened at the European Championships,” said Cabaye, who took pre-match Press duties with Pardew yesterday.
“It’s important that he focuses on this season.
“He’s scored some important goals, and helped us win games.
“I hope he stays in this mindset. He was in a good frame of mind last week, and he’s a very important player for us.”
The Gazette’s Europa League coverage is in association with UTS Engineering Ltd. http://www.uts-ltd.com/