HATEM Ben Arfa has been backed to give Sundeland’s defenders an early Halloween fright at the Stadium of Light, writes MILES STARFORTH.
The forward could again lead the line for Newcastle United in tomorrow’s Wear-Tyne derby.
Ben Arfa was used as a withdrawn “false No9” striker in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool.
And United manager Alan Pardew is considering using the same formation in the 149th meeting between the two great rivals.
He is keen to bring the pace of Ben Arfa – and in-form Loic Remy – to bear on the home defence in the fixture.
“If Hatem gets that role, we know if we can get him the ball, he can cause problems for Sunderland’s centre-halves,” Pardew said.
“If he’s running at you, and he’s coming down the middle of the pitch, you’re in trouble.
“If he plays, we’ve got to get enough of the ball to him.
“It’s a difficult system. But we played it very well against Liverpool.
“Whether we can play like that in a derby is another matter.
“Certainly, we’ve got good pace in the team, and that can hurt any team.”
Pardew and his squad will stay at a hotel tonight ahead of the derby.
“There are a couple of things we do differently,” said Pardew.
“We stay in a hotel, even though it’s only just down the road.
“We treat it like any other awayday.
“We also do a couple of other things we think will help the lads be calm, or raise the temperature.
“We have a couple of things ready.”
Meanwhile, Jonas Gutierrez won’t be involved for United.
The winger – who missed the Liverpool game – remains in Argentina on “personal leave”.
l NEWCASTLE United’s starting XI at the Stadium of Light will be littered with French speakers.
But the Geordie voices in the dressing room have been louder than ever in the build-up to tomorrow’s Wear-Tyne derby.
And goalkeeper Tim Krul says the club’s local players, like Steven Taylor, Shola Ameobi and Paul Dummett, have spelt out the fixture’s importance.
Asked if United’s homegrown players are important, he said: “Of course.
“The Geordies are always a bit more nervous in the build-up, and the week leading up to it.
“This week we’ve had seen a different Steven Taylor! And the whole week the fans have reminded us how important it is.
“You prepare yourself as best as you can, but the hype is full on, and it’s a great game to be involved in.”
Krul dislocated his shoulder in Newcastle’s 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland in April.
The fixture, the club’s heaviest derby loss since 1979, still haunts players and fans alike.
“It’s all in the past, but the manager will show us what we did wrong last year,” said Krul. “We now have to put it right.
“This game is a one-off. The derby days have nothing to do with stats. Anything can happen.”
Dummett could be the only Geordie in Pardew’s starting XI.
The defender scored after coming off the bench against Liverpool.
“It was incredible,” said Krul. “It was a dream come true for a local boy.”
l SHOLA Ameobi’s ready to return to the fray for Newcastle United – in the game he loves more than any other.
The striker is very much in United manager Alan Pardew’s thoughts ahead of tomorrow’s Wear-Tyne derby.
Only Jackie Milburn (15) has scored more derby goals than Ameobi, who has netted seven times in fixtures between Newcastle and Sunderland.
“He is in my thoughts, as he’s had such great success in these games,” Pardew said.
“He gets himself into such a good place for this game.”
“But he does, and he’ll be very influential if we need him.
“He looks good in training at the minute.”
Ameobi’s last Tyne-Wear derby goal came in March last year, when he came off the bench at St James’s Park to claim a point with a dramatic 90th-minute strike.
Sammy, Amoebi’s younger brother, is also vying for a place on Pardew’s bench.
The 21-year-old came off the bench against Liverpool.