HATEM Ben Arfa is being primed for a striking role at Newcastle United during Demba Ba’s spell at the African Cup of Nations.
Ben Arfa came off the bench to score his first goal in almost 15 months in the club’s 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day.
And the 24-year-old – who missed most of last season through injury - is pushing for a start against Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow night.
Manager Alan Pardew yesterday revealed Newcastle won’t be signing a striker in next month’s transfer window after the breakdown of a proposed £6million deal for Sochaux’s Modibo Maiga, who failed a medical.
And Ben Arfa’s return to form is timely for Pardew, who lose Ba to Senegal’s African Cup of Nations campaign next month.
“When Demba goes away, Hatem’s going to have to come to the fore,” Pardew told SportMail.
“He is finding his feet, and we’re going to need him.
“Hatem has had a couple of games and a couple of cameos now as well and he’s starting to look like his old self.
“Hatem’s had a terrible injury – you must remember that – but that goal will have done him no harm whatsoever.”
Ba, meanwhile, has been declared fit for Anfield by Pardew.
The striker – who took his tally for the season to 14 with his goal at the Reebok Stadium – suffered a knock to his knee, but he will be available to take on Liverpool.
Left-back Davide Santon also returns from injury, while Dan Gosling has served a three-match ban for his dismissal at Norwich City.