Bruce boosted by midfield trio's return
Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles is a doubt for Sunday’s clash with Everton – but Magpies head coach Steve Bruce has been boosted by the return of three midfielders ahead of the visit of the Toffees this weekend.
Skipper Lascelles was withdrawn during last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Wolves with a foot injury, and will be assessed in the coming days before Bruce names his side to take on the current Premier League leaders at St. James’ Park (2pm kick-off).
But the Longstaff brothers, Sean and Matty, are now fit enough to be involved against Carlo Ancelotti’s men, with Isaac Hayden also coming back into contention having not been risked at Molineux following a hamstring problem.
“We’ve only really got one major concern from last week – the captain,” he said. “He limped off, he’s got a foot injury. We’ve still got 48 hours so we’ll see how he is, but everybody else is OK.
“Matty has now completed an under-23 game – he’s played a game and a half and trained all week again, and thankfully, touch wood, he looks like he’s over his injury.
“And Sean has recovered from a horrible bout of tonsillitis as well – he’s OK as well, so they’ll both come into the equation.”
On Hayden, Bruce added: “He’s fine. He looks as if he’s recovered, he’s trained all week. I didn’t think I could gamble with him last week. As we’ve seen in the Premier League, soft tissue injuries, and injuries in general, are a problem.”
Everton’s fine start has seen them rise to the top of the pile after six games, with frontman Dominic Calvert-Lewin in particularly eye-catching form.
But Bruce wants his side to be wary of the Toffees’ new-look midfield, with summer recruits James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan having impressed so far this term.
“The one area where they’ve improved dramatically is the midfield area. The three players they’ve brought in have hit the ground running – they’ve given them an extra dimension, certainly,” he said.
“They’ve had a wonderful start, they’ve invested well and they’ve got a top class manager, so we know that we’re in for a very difficult game.
“But I’m really pleased that there’s somebody different at the top of the league. How refreshing is that? Wonderful. I’m a huge admirer of Ancelotti and what he’s done and achieved, and it’ll be a tough, tough game for us – that’s for sure.”
On England international Calvert-Lewin, who has seven goals already this campaign, Bruce said: “He’s arguably the best header of a ball in the Premier League, certainly forward-wise. You don’t see it very often these days but he certainly is terrific.
“I’m delighted for him, for his attitude, the way he works, the way he is, but we’ll have to be at our best to make sure that we defend well against him.
“But he’s one of the reasons, along with that midfield three in particular, why they’ve been successful, because of the form he’s in and the goals he’s scoring.”
It was Jacob Murphy who bagged Newcastle’s late equaliser at Wolves, curling home a free kick to cap a promising showing at right wing-back on what was his first league start of the season.
And Bruce believes the versatility his charges offer gives the Magpies plenty of options should he choose to alter their approach once more.
“We knew Jacob could play there, he’d played there very well, because that’s what he did successfully for Sheffield Wednesday last year and managed to score four goals in his last five games for them,” he explained.
“We knew that was OK, and of course we were asking Ryan and Miggy in particular, because of the problems we had in midfield, to play in an unfamiliar (role). To be fair to Miggy, he’s played there a fair few times for us.
“We asked them to do a job, and they did it. Defensively last week we were far, far better, and that’s what we have to be – we have to be difficult to play against and difficult to beat, and cause a threat the other way.”