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Bruce targeting 'big performance' ahead of Leeds visit

Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce is aiming for his side to produce a performance worthy of securing their first Premier League win of the 2021/22 season ahead of Friday's visit of Leeds United.

The Magpies host Marcelo Bielsa's Whites at St. James' Park on Friday night (kick-off 8pm BST) with both sides pursuing a first English top-flight victory this term.

Although Newcastle remain without the services of striker Callum Wilson, Bruce confirmed all those who featured in Saturday's away defeat at Manchester United are available to feature against the West Yorkshire outfit as well as Ryan Fraser, who suffered a twisted ankle whilst on international duty with Scotland. 

"Everybody (who played) at the weekend has come through," he said. "We had one or two knocks towards the end but, thankfully, everyone is OK.

"Unfortunately, it's a bit too soon for Callum (Wilson), Jonjo (Shelvey) and Paul Dummett. Ryan Fraser has trained all week and put himself in contention. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as everyone thought when he was on crutches and in a boot but he's OK.

"(Joe Willock) had a couple of knocks towards the last ten minutes of the game (against Manchester United) but everyone is okay.

On Martin Dúbravka's injury situation, Bruce added: "He's coming along nicely. The wound which was badly infected has gone. He's hoping to be back out on the grass next week which is good news for everyone."

Meanwhile, Bruce faces a goalkeeping dilemma in either continuing with Freddie Woodman or selecting Karl Darlow, who was named on United's bench during last week's trip to Manchester United after recovering from Covid-19. 

"I have to speak to the players involved," Bruce revealed. "That happens every week, it's arguably the hardest part of management especially when you've got a squad of 25 to pick from and can only make eleven happy.

"I've got to make that decision with 24 hours to go but, no mistake, I think it's vitally important that when I do make it, the players know that first.

With Newcastle bidding to move out of the relegation zone and Leeds attempting to avoid falling into the Premier League's bottom three with defeat, Bruce stressed the importance of registering maximum points, which would move the Magpies within one point adrift of the division's top ten. 

Bruce, however, is expecting a tight encounter with the 2019/20 Championship winners, who finished ninth last term, and highlighted Bielsa's impressive impact on the club's recent success. 

"They'll be wanting their first win too," he added. "You'd like to get off to a good start, especially in the Premier League and put points on the board. Unfortunately, for ourselves and Leeds, that hasn't happened yet so it all adds up to a really big night for both teams.

"We were 20 seconds away from beating Southampton, we were 2-1 up against West Ham and haven't been able to see it through. There lies the frustration of course because we are judged on results. We need a big performance on Friday and win the match.

"When I was at Sheffield Wednesday a few years ago, I witnessed the change in Leeds. I'd seen a group of players who'd been in and around that league, no disrespect to them, for a long time. 

"The impact the manager has had there is one I haven't seen. He is very well regarded and his team are the one that you want to watch."

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