By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Newcastle will again be missing Hatem Ben Arfa for Thursday's Europa League round of 16 second leg tie against Anzhi Makhachkala, but manager Alan Pardew is confident that his team can win without the mercurial Frenchman.
Ben Arfa suffered a hamstring injury in the Group D draw with Maritimo back in November, and made his first appearance since December in last week's 0-0 draw at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
However, he wasn't involved in Sunday's Barclays Premier League win against Stoke and Pardew has confirmed that he will also sit out of Thursday's game against the Russians.
Revealing that he otherwise has a virtually full-strength squad to choose from - minus long-term absentees Ryan Taylor and Haris Vuckic, skipper Fabricio Coloccini, goalkeeper Tim Krul and the ineligible Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy - the Magpies boss said: "We are pretty much all there apart from Hatem, who's not going to make this game.
"We're trying to finalise exactly his hamstring injury before we put him back into the fore again. He had a little setback so we're just getting our specialist to look at it today."
Ben Arfa - who suffered an horrific double leg-break early on in his Newcastle career - has seen his season affected by the niggling hamstring injury but Pardew believes the player will cope with the frustration.
"Only he can answer that but as the manager, my reading of him is that he's in a good place at the moment," he said.
"He knows that this injury that he's sustained is an injury that we have to be very, very careful of because more important to us is his welfare going forward so we're not going to take any risks.
"He had a slight little strain in there and we're just checking that strain is no more than that. I think that will be the diagonsis and therefore there is a chance he could be involved as early as Wigan.
"So I don't think the alarm bells are ringing on him, or he's in a bad place with pyschology. I don't think there's anything untoward on that.
"And if I'm honest, this game in particular him missing it isn't going to make a great impact because I think the team's in a good place and I think we can beat them without him, no problem."
However, Pardew hopes to have Shola Ameobi available after the striker missed the win over Stoke.
"The importance of him to us immense," he said. "He hasn't trained for the last three or four days but he will have a fitness test in the morning and I think he's got a good chance of being involved.
"He's a fabulous player and person and we're very, very lucky to have him."
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