HATEM Ben Arfa is ready to join Newcastle United’s Europa League campaign – but manager Alan Pardew is relucant to start him against Bordeaux tonight.
Ben Arfa now has served a three-match European suspension, dating back to his time at Olympique Marseille, and is available to Pardew.
However, the 25-year-old – who has been outstanding in the Premier League this season – is unlikely to be named in Pardew’s starting XI.
Pardew, while mindful of Sunday’s home game against Manchester United, has plegded to name a stronger Europa League team given the strength of Bordeaux, who beat Club Brugge 4-0 last month in the first round of group stages games.
“Hatem’s obviously a player that’s important to us – he’s been excellent this season,” Pardew said.
“But we’ve only got a two-day turnaround before Man United. So I have to take that into consideration, but the team will definitely be stronger.
“Our fans will be expecting us to put in a good performance against Bordeaux – we’re under no illusions about that.”
Meanwhile, Ben Arfa’s French countryman Yohan Cabaye has paid tribute to the forward’s impact on the field this season.
He has scored two goals and been the team’s creative force, after returning to England after France’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, which ended in acrimony and a warning for Ben Arfa after a bust-up with then-coach Laurent Blanc.
However, there has been no hangover from the French football federation’s disciplinary action against Ben Arfa.
“I haven’t spoken to him about what happened at the European Championships,” said Cabaye.
“It’s important that he focuses on this season. He’s scored some important goals, and helped us win games.”
Meanwhile, Pardew has denied Tottenham made a summer move for Cabaye.
Cabaye told French TV station Canal+ that the club made an “offer” for him in the last transfer window. The midfielder claimed Spurs wanted him to “replace” Real Madrid-bound Luka Modric.
However, Pardew said: “Firstly, there was no offer from Spurs, so he didn’t get that opportunity. But, of course, the likes of Yohan and one or two other players would be wanted by top sides. That’s natural.”
Pardew added that a successful campaign in the Europa League, where up to now he has fielded significantly weakened teams, would help him keep the likes of Cabaye, Papiss Demba Cisse, Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba.
Pardew went on: “What is important is the development of players and it’s important that we gave them the platform for success. This competition, is part of that.
“The only way we can keep the likes of Yohan, Papiss, Cheik and Demba is to bring success. That’s the only way.”
Alan Pardew has launched a staunch defence of Danny Simpson ahead of his return from injury.
Simpson’s expected to start for Newcastle United at the Sports Direct Areana against Bordeaux tonight.
The 25-year-old has spent the past month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Simpson has come in for criticism from some quarters and many fans were frustrated when the club failed in a bid to sign Lille right-back Mathieu Debuchy in the summer.
However, Pardew’s confident Simpson will help shore up a defence which has been leaking goals in the Premier League.
“I just think he’s a good defender,” Pardew said.
“I think he’s had some unfair criticism in terms of improving the team by replacing Danny.”
Pardew will be without injured centre-halves Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini for the Bordeaux game.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Tim Krul is not yet fit to play, and Pardew will choose between Steve Harper and Rob Elliot for the Bordeaux game.
Elliot – who was outstanding in the goalless draw against Maritimo late last month – is yet to play a home game for United.