HATEM Ben Arfa has returned to training with Newcastle United following the end of a brief spell of compassionate leave.

Ben Arfa was a late withdrawal from the reserves squad that won at Bolton Wanderers last week, with Magpies manager Alan Pardew giving him permission to travel to Tunisia to visit a sick relative.

He spent the weekend in north Africa, but returned to the North-East on Monday to train with a threadbare Newcastle squad shorn of the club's internationals.

He will be available for Sunday's Premier League game with Tottenham, although is likely to be restricted to a substitutes' role given Newcastle's strong start to the season without him.

Having named the same starting XI for matches against Aston Villa, Blackburn and Wolves, Pardew would ideally like to make it four games in a row against Spurs.

The likelihood of him being able to do that increased yesterday, when Newcastle's medical staff received a series of upbeat reports about Demba Ba, who missed Senegal's weekend win over Mauritius with a knee injury.

The problem is not understood to be related to the long-standing knee concern that resulted in a failed medical at Stoke City little more than two years ago, but the Magpies' medics are still keen to examine Ba themselves when he returns to the club's Darsley Park training complex tomorrow.

Provided he is passed fit, the striker will then train as normal with the rest of the first-team squad. The same is true of Yohan Cabaye, who sustained an ankle injury in France's 3-0 win over Albania on Friday but returned with no ill effects in last night's 1-1 draw with Bosnia.

It says something that the minor problems sustained by Ba and Cabaye have received such prominence this week, such is the uncharacteristic lack of an impending crisis at St James' Park.

With his side sitting pretty in fourth position in the Premier League table, and boasting an unbeaten run that stretches back to April, Pardew finds himself in an unusually relaxed position.

The traumatic exits of Joey Barton and Jose Enrique have been forgotten, while the failure to land a striker on August transfer-deadline day now looks disappointing rather than disastrous.

Pardew has been on Tyneside long enough to know it would be wrong to take anything for granted, but his assistant, John Carver, admits the club's fine recent run has deflected attention away from the issues that looked like being so damaging little more than a month ago.

"Winning football matches helps the situation," said Carver. "The gaffer has had a lot of things to deal with and he's dealt with them particularly well. The chairman and the owner have too.

"The only way we can put things right is by winning football matches and doing things right. I think the start we've had does help that.

"Once you start gathering a bit of momentum you do start to brush other things under the carpet. Hopefully, that is what we need."