NEWCASTLE United have been dealt a massive blow after discovering Hatem Ben Arfa will sit out the entire Christmas fixture card.
Manager Alan Pardew, who fears losing the 25-year-old for an extended period, will not risk the hugely-influential French playmaker’s hamstring, which has been bothering him for the past few weeks.
Ben Arfa will now not be seen again until 2013, which is the last thing his team needs going into such a crucial period – starting with Saturday’s must-win home game against QPR.
Pardew said: “Hatem is out for next week and probably the whole Christmas period.
“It was touch and go about how serious his injury was.
“Where he is, there is a danger he could tear that and if he did, he would be out for two or three months.
“Whereas if we do it the right way and be sensible about it, it may only be three weeks. That is the route it looks like we are going to take.”
Ben Arfa’s absence will be keenly felt by Pardew, who is going through the most trying period of his two years at St James’ Park.
Newcastle played much better during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat by Manchester City, particularly in the second half when they fought back to 2-1 and had chances to equalise.
One of them fell to Papiss Cissé, a shot on the turn which flew over City goalkeeper Joe Hart’s goal, which Pardew felt should have been taken by the out of form striker. He said: “That probably would have gone in last year. I didn’t think it was a difficult chance, it was an easy chance for him because he is good on his left side and it was right in the middle of goal.
“I expected that to go in. I was sad for Cisse because I know he is desperate to score.
“Maybe he just rushed it a bit.” Cisse himself took to Twitter to reassure supporters the players are determined to get things right on the park.
He said: “Hi everyone, I know times are hard right now but I can assure you we are working real hard to get back to our best.
“Thanks for all the support.
“IT was always gonna be tough but we tried!! Keep supporting us and am sure we will get back where we belong!!”