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Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Too early for Ben Arfa return - Newcastle boss Pardew

Hatem Ben Arfa
Ben Arfa scored once in his four appearances for the Magpies before injury

Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has played down hopes of a return from injury for midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa before the end of the season.

The 24-year-old, who joined the Magpies from Marseille on a permanent basis in January, broke his leg in October's 2-1 defeat by Manchester City.

"He's still some way off, the most important thing is Hatem is 100% when he plays," Pardew told BBC Newcastle.

"I think that's going to be late April, early May, if then."

Ben Arfa underwent a successful operation on the broken tibia and fibula in October, having made just four appearances, and scored once for Newcastle after an initial loan move.

Meanwhile Pardew has further doubts within his squad going into the trip to Stoke City a week on Saturday, following the 2-1 defeat by Everton at the weekend.

"Stephen Ireland will definitely not figure in that game, we'll have to wait and see on Joey Barton," Pardew added.

"It's not ideal, we already have a problem with Jonas [Gutierrez], who carried a knock during the Everton game, so we'll have to wait on those.

"As a football manager it's not ideal to lose a home game, and then have a run of injuries as well, so as I sit here it's not the most comfortable of positions I've been in since I came here.

"But we still have enough senior players, and some good players to take to Stoke and get a result."

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