NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew is battling with more injury problems ahead of his first return to St Mary’s this Sunday.
Ben Arfa and Papa Cisse both went off injured during last night’s 1-1 home Europa League draw against Maritimo that assured the Magpies of qualification for the knockout stages..
Pardew said: "Ben Arfa's is a hamstring problem, so it will definitely keep him out on Sunday, and probably next week. I don't know from then on.
"I don't think it's a tear, according to the doctor, so it's not a long injury, but it will certainly keep him out for the immediate future.
"Cisse got a kick on the thigh and he was starting to limp with it because it tightened up over half-time, so unfortunately I had to take him off when I didn't really want to.
"With no striker on the bench, it was proving problematic."
Pardew will be able to welcome back midfielder Cheick Tiote from his European suspension for the game at the St Mary's Stadium, but skipper Fabricio Coloccini will sit out once again as he completes his three-game domestic ban.
Pardew has not given up hope of topping Europa League Group.
Victory over bottom-of-the-table Maritimo at St James' Park last night would have sent them to Bordeaux next month needing only a point to finish top of the pile.
However, substitute Fidelis' late equaliser, coupled with a 2-1 win for the Frenchmen over Club Brugge in Belgium means it is they who will take top spot if they avoid defeat.
Pardew will now turn his attention to Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to former club Saints with injury and suspension biting deep into his squad, but is not ready to concede the group to Bordeaux.
He said: "The Bordeaux game, to be honest, if I took my strongest team there, it probably would still be difficult to try to win there.
"Nevertheless, we will go there with a team to win it. But I have to concentrate on the Premier League now.
"Our fans were singing, 'We're going up the league' - well, we need to win a game to go up the league, and we need to start on Sunday."
Newcastle looked to be on their way to victory when, with 23 minutes played, Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa slid an inviting pass into compatriot Sylvain Marveaux's run and looked on as he sprinted away from full-back Ruben Ferreira before finishing neatly.
But routine wins have been few and far between for the Magpies this season and after seeing a 37th-minute Papiss Cisse strike ruled out for offside, they wilted.
Their cause was not aided by the premature departures of both Ben Arfa and Cisse either side of half-time, and Maritimo sensed an opportunity.
They eventually forced their way back into the game with 11 minutes remaining when Fidelis blasted past the fatally exposed Tim Krul, and the striker might have snatched victory at the death when he volleyed across the face of goal.