Ben Arfa blow for Newcastle

Brendan Rodgers plans to give Liverpool teenager Raheem Sterling
a rest despite the impending Christmas programme.

The manager felt fatigue played a part in Saturday’s home defeat
to Aston Villa, and Sterling has featured 25 times already in his
first season as a regular.

Now Rodgers wants to avoid overplaying the 18-year-old, whose
form has earned him international honours with England.

“There is no doubt Raheem is one who does need that breather,”
he told the club website.

“I’ve thought about it over the past couple of weeks. In order
to do that you need to have that depth to take him out and put
somebody else in.

“That’s something I’m thinking about – who to put in. He’s a
naturally very, very fit boy but he needs that mental rest as well.
That time will come and he will get the breather soon enough.

“Joe Allen is another one. If we’re honest, there are a few who
could do with that breather, especially mentally. It’s something
for sure I need to have a wee look at.”

One player set to play throughout the Christmas period is Luis
Suarez. Rodgers said: “He’s at his best when he is playing
regularly.”

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The 25-year-old France international missed Saturday’s 3-1
Premier League defeat by Manchester City after aggravating a
hamstring injury and Pardew has admitted his absence is likely to
be extended.

He said: “Hatem looks like he is going to miss the next two or
three with the injury he has got. We can’t risk him.”

Ben Arfa suffered the original damage during the 1-1 Europa
League draw with Maritimo at St James’ Park on November 22 and sat
out the following four games as a result.

He returned and scored in the 2-1 defeat at Fulham on December
10, but later reported discomfort in the hamstring and fearing an
escalation, Pardew has decided to rest him fully in a bid to avoid
a much lengthier lay-off.

Ben Arfa is likely to miss Saturday’s vital home clash with QPR,
who finally recorded their first win of the campaign at the
weekend, and the daunting Boxing Day trip to Manchester United as
well as the visit to Arsenal three days later.

The Frenchman has been one of the few Magpies to have produced
his top form this season and his loss is a significant blow to a
manager who has seen his side defeated in six of its last seven
league games.

His unavailability, coupled with those of central defender
Steven Taylor and midfield playmaker Yohan Cabaye, has come at just
the wrong time with the club sitting precariously just two points
above the relegation zone ahead of a testing run of fixtures.

Pardew will at least have no fresh fitness concerns ahead of the
QPR game with the rest of his squad having emerged unscathed from
their ultimately fruitless second-half fightback against City.

He said: “I think that will be our squad, hopefully – we don’t
want to lose anyone. We have got a clean bill of health and that’s
a bonus in itself.

“Cheick [Tiote] was on a booking to miss QPR and I didn’t want
that, so I did take him off as a bit of a precaution for that.

“But the squad that played [on Saturday] is good enough. No
excuses – if that team plays like that against QPR, I think we will
win – with all due respect to QPR – and that’s how we are going to
have to play.”