Hatem Ben Arfa

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Alan Pardew believes Hatem Ben Arfa is Newcastle's answer to Luis Suarez - and is backing the Frenchman to go on and be one of the best players on the planet.

Liverpool star Suarez is currently the leading goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League but also has much more to his game with his quick feet and clever movement.

And Pardew believes Ben Arfa - who made his first start since December in Thursday's Europa League draw against Anzhi Makhachkala - has a comparable talent.

The former Marseille man turned 26 during the week and will hope to be involved in Sunday's Barclays Premier League meeting with Stoke City.

Pardew, who confirmed that Papiss Cisse should be fit but that Shola Ameobi was a doubt, said: "We've got a little worry about Hatem, whether we can introduce him into this game. He's a little bit stiff today still.

"He's a massive player at this level. For us, he's our Suarez - he's that different player, someone who in a tight game can create something out of nothing, and it would be great if we could have him available tomorrow for the last 30 minutes.

"He was a real problem for Stoke last year and hopefully he'll be available to me. We'll have to wait and see tomorrow.

"He can play anywhere in an offensive situation. I wouldn't want to play him at centre-half but everywhere else, he can play. 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'm trying to do is drive him towards that goal."

With or without Ben Arfa, Pardew is looking for his side to secure three points which could move them several places up the table.

"It's an important week," he said. "Obviously we've got Stoke at home and Wigan away, two teams who are in and around us, and a big Europa League game so it's a very important week. But we're in good form and looking forward to it.

"I think it would go a long way to securing our safety in the Premiership and relieve a little bit of pressure where we find ourselves.

"We've got a good side and between now and the end of the year I don't see a problem. But it would be nice to get a result on Sunday."

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