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Ben Arfa steps up return bid

Hatem Ben Arfa has stepped up his training programme but Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has moved to rein in expectation by insisting the winger is a month away from a return.

Ben Arfa has been sidelined since suffering a sickening leg injury against Manchester City in October.

His progress following surgery has gone some way to dispelling fears he would not play again this season and there have even been reports claiming he could be in contention for a first-team recall by the middle of March.

It would appear highly unlikely the former Marseille man will feature before April but the club are delighted with his progress.

"He is running but he is a good month away," Pardew said.

Pardew feels there is a possibility the former Marseille man could be fit to face Wolves on April 2.

"He's got every chance of playing," Pardew said. "The Stoke game [on 19 March] is probably too soon."

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