Jose Enrique

By Anthony Marshall

 

Newcastle will be boosted this weekend at Aston Villa by the return of Jose Enrique, with manager Alan Pardew revealing the defender will go straight into the starting line-up.

Enrique has been troubled by a hamstring problem throughout the last month, but the Spaniard has put a smile on the face of Pardew and Co by regaining full fitness in time for the trip to Villa Park on Sunday.

His return to the left-back spot means teenager Shane Ferguson - who has excelled in Enrique's absence - should drop down to the substitutes' bench, but Pardew has nothing but praise for both men.

"It's ideal preparation when you get one of your best players back, and that is what we've got with Enrique," the boss told nufc.co.uk.

"He has been in training this week, Hatem (Ben Arfa) has been in training as well and that has given everyone a real boost. We are all looking forward to Sunday.

"Fergie can count himself very unlucky not to play because he was excellent last week. He can put that in his locker and be ready for the next game though, knowing he has the confidence to play.

"But Enrique is a top player and will come straight into the team."

Ben Arfa has so far only taken part in light training following his return to United's Benton-based Training Centre on Tuesday.

But the French forward will now step up his rehabilitation from a broken leg, and Pardew hopes to have him training with the first team again in a fortnight's time.

"Hatem has come back and will train next week with the development squad to ease him back in," he explained.

"The week after that hopefully he will train with the first team.

"He has a structured plan to hit that target and we have our fingers crossed that he does. He has got a smile on his face, wants to play and is champing at the bit, so we are hoping to see him soon."