HATEM Ben Arfa’s will be fitter and stronger come Saturday – and that spells trouble for Manchester City.
The forward scored on his comeback against Fulham at Craven Cottage last night.
But Ben Arfa’s stunning second-half goal wasn’t enough to stop the club suffering another Premier League defeat.
Ben Arfa cancelled out Steve Sidwell’s first-half opener, only for Hugo Rodallega to score a winner for Martin Jol’s side to the frustration of manager Alan Pardew – and the club’s huge travelling support in the Putney End.
Newcastle face Premier League champions City at St James’s Park on Saturday.
And Pardew took Ben Arfa off in the 71st minute so as not to risk him breaking down after three weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.
“He was short of match fitness, and I thought he struggled in the early part of the game to pick up the pace,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“But he’s got great moments. He was tiring, and I had to remove him.
“It was a terrific goal, and that’s what he can create.”
Fulham started the better team, but United came to the fore late in the first half.
And Pardew felt his team, which has lacked attacking fluency this season, moved the ball forward well after the break.
“I was pleased with our attacking performance,” added Pardew.
“I thought we really did create some great chances, and on another night we could have scored two or three goals.
“But it wasn’t to be. I was disappointed for the players – I thought they gave everything.
“It was just a couple of mistakes – like at Stoke – that cost us.”