HATEM Ben Arfa will not make his Newcastle United comeback this week, with manager Alan Pardew hoping he can return in the next round of the Europa League instead.
Ben Arfa returned to training this week after 10 weeks out with a hamstring injury – itself a recurrence of a problem suffered at Bordeaux in October.
It prompted talk of a return either against Metalist Kharkiv tonight, or Southampton in Sunday’s Premier League meeting.
But Pardew has had to accept his playmaker will not feature in either.
“It was a no-brainer really,” he admitted last night. “He has only been with us for two days from Clairefontaine (the French national team’s training centre, where he has been doing his rehabilitation work).
“He looks short of match-fitness but we hope to get him up to speed perhaps for the next round.
“Sunday might be too early for him too but certainly Swansea, I would be looking for him to have some sort of cameo role from the bench if he progresses well.”
A score draw at Metalist Kharkiv will book Newcastle’s place in the last 16, where they face the winners of Anzhi Makhalachkala and Hannover. Anzhi travel to Germany tonight defending a 3-1 lead.
The first leg of the last 16 takes place two weeks today.
Left-back Davide Santon missed the trip to Ukraine with an ankle injury. In his absence, Pardew has a number of options.
The versatile James Perch could slot in there, and he looks to be the most likely candidate.
But Newcastle could also play Danny Simpson there, or hand a debut to 20-year-old Massadio Haidara, who joined from Nancy in January.
The surprise name in the squad was that of the injury-plagued Dan Gosling, whose last appearance for the first team also came in the Europa League, at home to Bordeaux.
After that he suffered the latest in a string of serious knee injuries, and hurt his ankle on his return.
The talented Gosling was damaged goods when he joined Newcastle on a free transfer, Everton allowing his contract to run down as he recovered from anterior cruciate knee ligament problems.
In two-and-a-half years on Tyneside he has started just one Premier League game, and only six matches at all.