HATEM Ben Arfa can open up Chelsea at St James’s Park tomorrow – if his Newcastle United team-mates can get him on the ball.
Ben Arfa’s set for his first home start for more than 14 months.
The forward came into the side away to Manchester City last month after Leon Best was ruled out through injury.
Ben Arfa kept his place for last weekend’s visit to Manchester United, where he won the controversial penalty converted by Demba Ba.
However, Ben Arfa didn’t see enough of the ball in either game, according to United manager Alan Pardew.
Pardew’s looking forward to seeing the 24-year-old start a game at St James’s Park, where he feels he can have more of an influence on the game.
“You’d like to think Hatem would have a little bit more of the ball, and see more possession,” Pardew said.
“If he does, hopefully, he’ll have more moments.
“He had moments in the two games where he’s done something we know no-one else can do.
“He’s worked hard. He understands the ethic of the team, and hopefully he can put a performance in with the work ethic we expect, and his quality comes through.”
Striker Best is again available after returning to training from a groin injury last month.
Meanwhile, Pardew has moved to reassure Newcastle United fans after Cheik Tiote was ruled out of Chelsea’s visit to St James’s Park.
The midfielder has sat out the club’s past five games with a knee injury.
Pardew had hoped to have the 25-year-old back for last weekend’s visit to Manchester United.
But Tiote failed to prove his fitness in time, and he remains unavailable.
He could also sit out the game against Norwich City at Carrow Road on December 10.
Tiote’s extended spell on the sidelines has fuelled speculation among supporters, mindful that striker Andy Carroll was out of action this time last year before his move to Liverpool, he is being kept out of the team ahead of a sale next month.
However, Pardew – who admitted last month it would take a “hell of a lot of money” for a club to prise any of his players away in the transfer window – has moved to calm fears that there’s no more to Tiote’s absence than just injury.
“It’s a niggling injury,” Pardew said.
“He hasn’t had a setback. It’s not his groin, and there’s nothing else going on.
“It’s still his knee, but it’s taking longer than we’d hoped. I said he’d play this week, and he’s not going to play, so I’m not going to say he’s going to play at Norwich.
“It’s going to take a while. Cheik’s a bit down about it. He’s desperate to play. He’s missing three big games. We’ve got to manage Cheik, and get him back to his best as quick as we can. He’s a very important player.”
Pardew also admitted he was wrong to give an him a chance of playing at Old Trafford.
“I want to apologise (to the fans),” he said. “That’s my fault, in a way.
“It’s better to get that news out than Chelsea finding out through the teamsheet.”