Pardew hails Ben Arfa comeback

Alan Pardew hailed the comeback of Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa as crucial ahead of Sunday's league clash with Stoke at St James' Park.

Last Updated: 10/03/13 at 14:06 Post Comment

Hatem Ben Arfa: Praised by Newcastle boss Alan Pardew as he makes a timely comeb

Hatem Ben Arfa: Praised by Newcastle boss Alan Pardew as he makes a timely comeb

The France international made his first appearance in 12 weeks in Thursday's Europa League tie against Anzhi Makhachkala after recovering from a hamstring tear.

And the Magpies boss is hoping the midfielder can play a starring role in Sunday's Premier League tie against Stoke.

"It's important that he has come back at maybe a crucial time because we have still managed to stay in the Europa League," Pardew said.

"We have done well in that competition and we have got a great chance on Thursday (after 0-0 draw in first leg of last-16 tie).

"But the most important thing is to get this win in the Premier League to give us some breathing space, and if we can get through this week, then Hatem is going to be very, very important to us."

Pardew went on to praise the Frenchman, who played in an unaccustomed lone striking role in Moscow with Papiss Cisse having remained behind due to illness, comparing him with the likes of Liverpool's mercurial Luis Suarez.

Pardew said: "He's a massive player at this level. He's our Suarez - he's that different player, someone who in a tight game can create something out of nothing.

"He's a fantastic player, tremendous technique and a great mentality to be one of the best players in the world.

"That's what he wants to be. That's his target and all I am trying to do is drive him towards that goal."

While first-choice goalkeeper Tim Krul continues his recovery from an ankle injury, the Newcastle boss went on to praise understudy Rob Elliot who made two fine saves in Moscow on Thursday.

He said: "It's a tough agenda for him because Tim is a Dutch international and a great goalkeeper, and the fans love him here, so there's always that pressure.

"But I never doubted his ability. The only problem Rob had when I first managed him was a lack of confidence.

"But we pursued him because we knew that. After I left and (goalkeeping coach) Andy Woodman stayed there, he grew as a first-team goalkeeper and confidence was all the problem was. Now he's got that.

"He's a great shot-stopper - he's one of the best, trust me - and he's finding a nice little niche here."

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