HATEM Ben Arfa will make his seasonal debut for Newcastle United against Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira tonight.
Ben Arfa was troubled with a hamstring injury for much of last season, and the 26-year-old’s pace and creativity was missed during his lengthy absences.
The challenge for Newcastle boss Alan Pardew and the club’s staff is to keep him fit.
Ben Arfa has been worked hard during the club’s training camp in Portugal by the club’s new performance director Faye Downey. And he’s now going “flat out” without any problems, according to Pardew.
“His injury in the second leg of the Maritimo game was a massive blow to us last year,” Pardew said. “Really and truly, he never recovered. He wasn’t quite right.
“But we told him to have a complete rest this summer and let his hamstring heal, which he’s done.
“Now it’s about putting the work in so he’s strong enough to sustain a season.
“We’ve had him flat out, and he’s already reached the top speed he’s had at this football club.
“Fingers crossed, he’ll get his first bit of action, and he’ll get stronger as we go on.”
Captain Fabricio Coloccini and Mathieu Debuchy are also pencilled in to play tonight.
Pardew, whose team lost 3-1 to Rio Ave on Saturday, is expecting a difficult game against Pacos de Ferreria, who qualified for the Champions League’s fourth qualifying round last season after finishing third in the Primeira Liga.
“We’ll play under fatigue, there’s no doubt about that,” said Pardew. “We’ve worked really hard.
“There’ll be a lot of substitutions, but hopefully we can get a really good win. It’s a Champions League team. They’re a really good side.”
H Dan Gosling’s move to Crystal Palace is expected to be completed today.