Hatem Ben Arfa

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Hatem Ben Arfa could be back to boost Newcastle's Europa League bid, weeks after being ruled out for the season.

The French ace hasn't played since aggravating a troublesome hamstring injury in the round of 16 first leg at Anzhi Makhachkala and had been expected to miss the remainder of the campaign.

But he has surprised everybody with his progress and Alan Pardew believes he is now physically and mentally ready to return to action.

And, with Newcastle needing to claw back a 3-1 aggregate scoreline against Benfica on Thursday night, the maverick number ten could have a crucial role to play at St. James' Park - more than likely from the bench.

"Hatem has made an unbelievable recovery," Pardew said. "He will be involved tomorrow and I'm sure if he's needed he will be somebody that can turn the game.

"(Cheick) Tiote and (Mathieu) Debuchy - who's obviously unavailable - are both going to be training tomorrow, which is good news for us.

"For this game, Hatem is available. Steven Taylor's got a knock this morning so he's a doubt for the game tomorrow, which is a bit of a shame.

"Other than that, everybody else is available. Colo (Fabricio Coloccini) I would say is looking at West Brom in terms of our fixture list - he has perhaps a small chance of that game - but we're almost there.

"We're not far away but tomorrow night is probably just too soon for a couple of the key hitters."