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.”