NEWCASTLE’S Hatem Ben Arfa is facing two weeks out of action.
The France international limped out of last night’s 1-1 Europa League draw with Maritimo with a damaged hamstring, and although the club’s medics were confident there was no tear, Alan Pardew was left facing up to the absence of perhaps his most creative player.
However, while Ben Arfa has been ruled out of Sunday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Southampton and next Wednesday’s visit to Stoke, he is expected to be back in harness sooner rather than later.
Pardew said: “It’s not as bad as we feared, so I think a couple of weeks, but no more than that, hopefully.”
There is better news of striker Papiss Cisse, who made way after taking a kick on the thigh last night.
His condition had improved significantly this morning and he has a chance of making the trip to the St Mary’s Stadium, as do Jonas Gutierrez following a knee problem and utility man James Perch, who trained this morning after shaking off a thigh injury.
However, with Shola Ameobi out with a groin strain, Pardew has also drafted forgotten man Nile Ranger into the squad.
Ranger, whose career on Tyneside has been blighted by off-field problems, has been included after impressing and scoring in a 2-2 Under-21s derby draw with Sunderland last week.
Pardew said: “Let’s just say he’s knuckled down. I still think he owes us and I said that to him this morning, so I’m not saying anything that I haven’t said to him personally.
“I think he owes us and now is the time to be humble, come in and play football and concentrate on football.”