Ben Arfa to miss crunch Anzhi clash
Alan Pardew has confirmed that Hatem Ben Arfa will miss Thursday's Europa League tie against Anzhi Makhachkala.
The mercurial midfielder has already sat out most of 2013 with a hamstring injury picked up during December's defeat to Fulham. Having made his return during the 0-0 draw in the first legin Russia last week, the former Marseille man will now see a specialist in order to provide clarity on the situation.
"We are pretty much all there apart from Hatem who isn't going to make this game," he said. "We're trying to finalise exactly his hamstring injury before we put him back into the fore again. He's had a little setback so we're getting a specialist to have a look at it today, and we'll have a little bit more news in my next press conference.
"As the manager, my reading of him is he's in a good place at the moment. I think he knows that this injury he has sustained is one that we have to be very careful on. More important to us is his welfare going forward so we aren't going to take any risks. He had a slight little strain in there and we're just checking that it's no more than that. I think that will be the diagnosis and therefore there's a chance he could be involved as early as Wigan [on Sunday].
"I don't think the alarm bells are ringing on him or he's in a bad place with his psychology. I don't think there's anything untoward in that.
"If I'm honest, this game in particular, him missing it isn't going to make a great impact on this game. I think the team is in a good place and I think we can beat them without him, no problem."
Pardew also revealed that striker Shola Ameobi will face a late fitness test on Thursday morning after missing Sunday's victory over Stoke City. The 31-year-old is currently sitting on 49 appearances for the club in Europe, and will surpass Magpies legend Alan Shearer if he makes an appearance on Thursday night.
"The importance of him to us is immense," Pardew said. "He hasn't trained for 3 or 4 days, but he has a fitness test in the morning and we think he has a good chance of being involved. He is a fabulous player and person. We're very lucky to have him."