YOAN GOUFFRAN has been tipped to form a formidable attacking line-up with compatriot Hatem Ben Arfa.
Fears the Newcastle United new boy suffered a broken leg at White Hart Lane were eased yesterday.
Gouffran’s joy of scoring his first Magpies goal turned to despair when he had to be stretchered off in the second half of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham.
He was sent for an x-ray amid fears that the innocuous clash with Spurs full-back Kyle Walker could ruin the bright start he has made following last month’s move from Bordeaux But after results showed no break to his right leg, Gouffran is being monitored closely on Tyneside, and there are hopes he will be fit to face Southampton on February 23.
He was already cup-tied for the two-leg Europa League tie with Metalist Kharkiv.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is excited by the prospect of being able to field him on opposite flanks to Ben Arfa, who is also due to return against Southampton after a three-month hamstring layoff.
He said: “You’d like to think with Yoan on one side, Ben Arfa on the other and Moussa Sissoko and (Papiss) Cisse through the middle – blimey, that’s mouth-watering for us.
I think there’s a possibility Hatem will be back for the next home game.”
In fact Pardew insists he is, generally speaking, more excited about the months ahead than he has been at any other stage of the campaign.
“You put Cheik Tiote and Sissoko in there and we have got a really, really good side if we can get it out on the pitch,”
said Pardew. “Unfortunately this year we haven’t even come close to getting it out there. This is actually the closest I’ve come to putting my strongest side out.
“It does excite me, it really does. I really looked forward to the next game (Tottenham) and I’ve not done that all year.
Some of the teams I’ve had to select from, the squad’s been really shallow but I put a good side out and they gave a good account of themselves.”
When Gouffran suffered his injury just before the hour, Newcastle looked comfortable and capable of earning at least a point in north London.
But Gareth Bale, who scored a first half free-kick, grabbed his second with 13 minutes remaining to seal the points and keep Newcastle near the bottom of the Premier League.
Southampton’s victory over Manchester City and Aston Villa’s success over West Ham has increased the pressure near the bottom again. Newcastle are now just four points above Reading, occupants of a place in the relegation zone.
Pardew has warned his players not to take survival for granted after winning their previous two matches.
He said: “Pressure is a funny thing. For a big club like us there is even more pressure, so we need to make sure we keep that distance to the bottom three. We knew that this was a tough game, we wanted to take something out of it.
“We haven’t and then we had to hope the results went our way to keep the pressure off and a good win at Southampton at home would put us in a decent position.
But we’re a long way from that (being safe) still.”
Despite losing to Tottenham, Pardew is satisfied the confidence from back-to-back victories over Aston Villa and Chelsea remains – urging his players to remember they only lost because of the brilliance of Bale.
“I actually said to the players at half-time I thought we started the game a little bit over confident. A bit kind-of strolling around thinking ‘We’ve won a couple of games’, you know?” he said.
“But once we got that out of the way I thought we played well. We had a nice balance to the team. Sissoko played well, I thought he showed he’s not going to be a flash-in-the-pan.
He was a real tower of strength for us.
“For us it was a good performance but this is a tough place to come and Gareth Bale, in the mood he’s in, was probably the deciding factor.”
He added: “I said prior to the game that if you pick a world XI, there is no doubt in my mind Gareth plays leftmidfield.’’
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