Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has revealed Hatem Ben Arfa could return from injury before the end of the season.
After 12 weeks out, the Frenchman returned to action earlier this month in the first leg of United's Europa League last-16 tie with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, but lasted only 64 minutes after being forced off with a hamstring injury.
The former Marseille winger was then ruled out for the rest of the season, but having returned to France to work on his fitness, Pardew has revealed he may be back to action sooner than planned.
Speaking to the Newcastle Chronicle, Pardew said: "We're getting more optimistic he could be involved again before the end of the season."
Pardew has previously insisted he will not take any risks with Ben Arfa but it would be a major boost for Newcastle if he can return for the run-in as he is a player who the manager feels brings a different dimension to the team.
"He's a massive player at this level. He's our Suarez - he's that different player, someone who in a tight game can create something out of nothing," Pardew said last month.
"He's a fantastic player, tremendous technique and a great mentality to be one of the best players in the world.
"That's what he wants to be. That's his target and all I am trying to do is drive him towards that goal."