Newcastle United’s Ben Arfa grafts for Crystal Palace return

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HATEM Ben Arfa is battling to be fit to face Crystal Palace on Saturday – and give Newcastle United a cutting edge, writes MILES STARFORTH.

The French forward has not featured in more than a month.

Ben Arfa had a knock, and was also given a week’s leave because of what manager Alan Pardew described as a “family issue”.

However, the 27-year-old worked over the weekend with a fitness coach, and Pardew is hopeful he will be available for this weekend’s home game against Tony Pulis’s relegation-threatened Palace.

John Carver, Newcastle’s assistant manager, felt the Magpies lacked “quality” in the final third in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Fulham, though he did not have an issue with the players’ work-rate.

“The one thing I would say is that we did just lack that little bit of quality in the final third,” Carver said.

“The final pass wasn’t great. But as always, this group of players work extremely hard for each other.

“We possibly didn’t have the same energy levels we did at Hull (when United won 4-1), but we had different players on the pitch.”

Pardew could also welcome back defender Davide Santon – who has been sidelined in recent weeks with a knee problem – for the visit of his former club to St James’s Park.