Papiss Cisse fires goal warning
Papiss Cisse has warned Benfica he is back on the goal trail as he attempts to fire Newcastle into the Europa League semi-finals.
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15. Papiss Cisse
The Senegal international has scored in four of his last six games to take his tally for the campaign to 12 but, with chances starting to arrive in greater numbers, he is confident of improving on his series of single, if often decisive, strikes.
Cisse said: "Absolutely. I have been getting a lot of chances, I have been lucky enough to score one in matches and I think this will improve my mentality and improve my concentration.
"If I keep working hard, hopefully I will be able to come out with a brace or a hat-trick."
Cisse and his team-mates headed into arguably the biggest week of their season to date on the back of a 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Fulham, which arrived courtesy of the forward's injury-time winner.
They face derby rivals Sunderland at St James' Park on Sunday in a game which could either ease them clear of the fight for top-flight survival, or plunge them back into the relegation picture.
That, coupled with tonight's European showdown, represents a key four-day spell for the Magpies, but it is one they are relishing.
Cisse said: "It's exciting, really exciting for us. Of course there is pressure, that's absolutely normal and understandable, but players just want to get out there and play.
"That's our job, that's what we do and it's really a pleasure to be able to get out there and do that."
Hatem Ben Arfa may get the chance to do just that despite having been ruled out for the season with a persistent hamstring problem.
Manager Alan Pardew revealed yesterday that the mercurial France international has made a remarkable recovery and will be involved in the 18 tonight.
Pardew said: "We were conservative in or approach when he re-injured his hamstring - when I say re-injured, he didn't really re-injure it, he wasn't confident about it.
"We just said, 'That's him done this season', and I think it was a good mindset for him to prove us wrong.
"He has come back with a different mindset, and his mindset is that it feels much stronger in the hamstring.
"The scans show that the hamstring, although not fully repaired - and with the type of injury he has had, it probably won't be for another seven or eight weeks - the confidence is in his head that it's done, that he's okay, and that is important.
"He could be an influential figure between now and the end of the year, and influential even tomorrow. He has shown good form in training for two or three days.
"He has looked much better, much stronger than when he came back before. There was definitely a doubt in his mind about the strength of the hamstring, and with hamstring injuries sometimes, it is how confident you feel.
"He definitely looks and feels ready this time."