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Apr 12, 2013

Ben Arfa: I'm ready for Sunderland

Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa has said he is 100% fit to face Sunderland on Sunday, but manager Alan Pardew is continuing to wait on the availability of Steven Taylor.

• Preview: Newcastle v Sunderland
• Duffy: Bring on The Mackems

Ben Arfa made his long-anticipated return as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 Europa League draw against Benfica on Thursday, and is eagerly awaiting the chance to play in the derby.

"I think I'm OK for the rest of the season now, and I'm very happy to play," Ben Arfa told nufcTV.

"I want it [the game against Sunderland] to be now. Sunday is going to be a great game, and we hope we win for all the supporters and for us.

"We know it is very important for everyone in Newcastle to win this game."

Taylor must wait to see whether the knee injury that kept him out of the Benfica game will also end his hopes of involvement in Sunday's match.

Pardew is set to welcome back players including Mathieu Debuchy and Cheick Tiote, and said: "Trust me - if you live in the North-East, it [the derby] is important.

"Regardless of the league position it's an important game, and we acknowledge that. I think the energy levels [after Benfica] are OK - I think we will be fine for Sunday. I hope so."

Former Magpie Olivier Bernard said he had been surprised by the intensity of the occasion when he first played in a derby, but had soon got used to it.

"It's a lot for the city, and the people take it very seriously," he told ESPN. "The first year I took part, I didn't really understand [the emotion]. I was shocked by the intensity of the game. The second time, I felt a lot more like I was part of the city.

"It's down to the Geordies, I'd say, Shola [Ameobi], Steven Taylor, who are Newcastle through and through, to explain [to their team-mates] what the derby means."

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