• France forward may need surgery on hamstring
• Yohan Cabaye could face Wigan after injury against Anzhi
Hatem Ben Arfa seems set to miss the remainder of the season after a consultant advised Newcastle United's key attacking creator that he needs an operation on the hamstring injury he suffered in early December.
The 26-year-old France international was sidelined for three months with a torn hamstring before returning briefly in the Europa League against Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow last week.
However, Ben Arfa suffered a reaction after he was substituted and saw a specialist on Wednesday who advocated surgery. After sending the winger to Clairefontaine, the French national technical centre outside Paris, for treatment and rehabilitation during his 12-week lay-off, Newcastle had hoped an operation could be avoided but it now appears that an always tricky tear has failed to self-heal adequately.
"I think Hatem's going to need an operation on his hamstring, it's the news he didn't want to hear," said Alan Pardew, Newcastle's manager, whose recently much improved side have virtually eliminated their relegation fears but face a tricky Europa League quarter final against Benfica.
"It will probably leave him missing for the rest of the year, I think. Getting fit for next season is the priority for Hatem now because he's been a huge miss for us. He give us that X-factor. In difficult games where he could open the door for us, we haven't got that luxury."
The good news for Newcastle is that despite hobbling off during Thursday night's Europa League win against Guus Hiddink's Anzhi on Tyneside clutching his groin, Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle's most influential midfielder, has not sustained any serious damage. Indeed Cabaye could be involved in Sunday's Premier League game at Wigan.