Last Updated: Thu, 28 Feb 2013 13:23
Alan Pardew is refusing to rush Hatem Ben Arfa back into the first team but has hinted he could make an appearance against Swansea.
The 25-year-old has been struggling with a hamstring injury but after returning to full training earlier in the month he is available for selection should Pardew decide to bring him back in.
Six weeks ago the talented midfielder would have been straight back in such was the injury situation, but following an influx of new talent in January, Pardew can afford to take it easy with him.
Ben Arfa, who has been heavily linked with Liverpool this week, remained on the bench during the 4-2 win over Southampton last time out, but Pardew has hinted he could get some time on the pitch against the Swans.
"We didn't have the strength we've had on the bench," he revealed. "Perchie (James Perch) has come on (against Southampton) and looked controlled and shored us up. You've got the quality of (Vurnon) Anita coming on the pitch. It makes a big difference.
"Ben Arfa is getting better - but he isn't there yet. He might get a bit of time at Swansea."
Have you an opinion on this story? Put your money where your mouth is and claim a free £25 bet.