7 March 2013 15:47
Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa said Alan Pardew’s new-look side can challenge for European honours and a top-10 Premier League place.
The Magpies, who are currently languishing just six points above the drop zone, are in Russia to face big-spending Anzhi on Thursday, but the Frenchman is hoping his new team-mates can spring a surprise.
Pardew bolstered his injury-ravaged squad in January with several new recruits from France, and Ben Arfa – who could make his return for their Anzhi trip – has been delighted with the progress they have made.
“I am very happy now,” he told the Daily Mirror.
“They are very good players and they will really strengthen our team. I was in France when the players were signing. I was pleased because they are good players not just because they a French.
“For instance, Moussa Sissoko is here and he is a giant. I know him from the national team. A lot of big clubs wanted him and he came to Newcastle.
“We have a stronger team now than we had before January. It’s good because last season we did very well and we finished fifth but the squad was not very big.
“Now, with the players coming in, it is even stronger and we can do something similar again. This season maybe we can go on a good run and get to the top 10, of course.
“The ambition is to come back very strong and finish the season strong. I want to be at my best until the end of the season and that is my ambition at the moment.”
The 25-year-old has returned to the squad following a recurring hamstring setback that has kept him out for the best part of two months and the former Lyon man is confident his side can overcome an ambitious Anzhi side in Moscow and reach the last eight of the Europa League.
“I know (Samuel) Eto’o. I also know Lassana Diarra from the national team,” he added.
“They are a good team with very good players. They are targeting this competition and next year want to be in the Champions League. They have great ambition.
“But I am looking forward to playing. I am very happy to be back on the pitch. It has been a long time not playing, 10 weeks is difficult for any player to deal with.”