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Messi, Mascherano back in training

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Ben Arfa could make Toon return

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has said Hatem Ben Arfa is pushing for a starting place against Liverpool on Saturday.

• Preview: Life without Luis

The winger has endured an injury-hit season, with his problems beginning when he was forced off during the Europa League tie against CS Maritimo in November.

He made a brief return before Christmas but did not play again until the game against Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League knockout stages.

"Every day he's getting closer," Pardew told the Evening Chronicle. "He's worked a lot better and we are hopeful he will make an impact, whether he starts or comes off the bench."

Pardew called for Newcastle to put in a performance "worthy of the black and white shirt" against Liverpool after they were thrashed 3-0 by Sunderland in their previous home game.

The Magpies are six points above the relegation zone - not a position in which they would have expected to be after an excellent campaign last season.

"They feel a bit of pressure," Pardew said. "It comes from having that very successful last season to this year and having a season at the moment that is far from that.

"This is where you find out the character within the group. From what I've seen on the training ground this week, there's a good sense we will be able to prove that with a good performance and three points."

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