Miles Starforth of The Shields-Gazette reported earlier today that Hatem Ben Arfa could return to the Newcastle lineup - or more likely, the bench - as soon as the Tyne-Wear derby this Sunday. Ben Arfa has been troubled by a hamstring injury for a good portion of the season, and it was reported after his last comeback was cut short that he was unlikely to return before the end of the Premier League campaign. It was a surprise, then, when news broke that he underwent a fitness test prior to Sunday's match with Fulham, and that he could have been included had he passed. He didn't, obviously, but the medical staff seems to believe that an extra week could be enough rest to make him ready. Alan Pardew provides the details:
What’s happened with Hatem is that the scan has shown that we’ve got some scar tissue still in the hamstring. He’s showing no ill-effects. We’ve sent him to three experts, mainly a French expert, who’s been looking after him. He thinks that he’s 100 percent. We’re now treating him as that. He’s running. There could be a cameo as soon as Sunderland.
The word "cameo" suggests that if Ben Arfa were to be declared fit, he'd probably be used as a substitute. Obviously, that's a smart move given his history returning from injury. If he is indeed available as a substitute, Alan Pardew will have a true goal-scoring threat on his bench for the first time in weeks.