Bruce targeting improvement as United eye King Power hat-trick
Written by Rory Mitchinson
Steve Bruce is hopeful of a swift improvement from his Newcastle United side as the Magpies gear up for Sunday’s Premier League clash at Leicester City.
United have won just one of their opening six fixtures in the top flight and were restricted to less than 30 per cent of the ball against Brighton & Hove Albion at St. James’ Park a week ago, a game which ended 0-0.
They sit just a point above the relegation zone ahead of Sunday’s trip to the King Power Stadium, where the Foxes – currently third in the table after an impressive start – overcame Tottenham Hotspur a week ago.
Newcastle have won on their last two visits to Leicester but, if they are to make it a hat-trick, Bruce was quick to acknowledge they must perform better than they did against Brighton on home soil.
“We didn’t play well enough, with or without the ball,” the Magpies’ head coach admitted. “Does it concern me? It always concerns me when you don’t play well enough. It’s disappointing, but we didn’t lose the game. We have to improve if we’re going to make a fist of it this year – we have to be better than what we were last week, quite simply. We’ve got another opportunity on Sunday and we’ve got a few back from injury, which will make us slightly better, I hope.”
Bruce has been handed a boost by Sean Longstaff’s return to fitness, with the midfielder having sat out United’s last two games with an ankle problem.
“He picked it up in the game last week,” Bruce explained. “I think he’s been hampered with a thigh injury, which – to be fair – has been niggling away at him for a long time. I think it was the best part of last year, too, where he wasn’t 100 per cent right. This is a different injury, don’t get me wrong, but I think he has been playing with it. And I think, in any league, you get a little bit found out if that’s the problem. So, we’ll take this opportunity to make sure he is right and go from there.
“We’ve had a few long-term injuries, especially at the top end of the pitch – where it can make a lot of difference. It’s been a big problem. We saw what a difference it made last week – in the last 20 minutes or half an hour we were much, much better. It’s something we’ll take on board. We’ll have to improve on last week’s performance but we all know that.”
It’s only a month since United and Leicester last locked horns, when a much-changed Magpies side exited the Carabao Cup on penalties following a 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have since gone on to make the last 16 of the competition, though Bruce felt his troops were a little unfortunate to bow out following a closely-fought encounter.
“Well, we played very, very well against them,” he said. “It was a good game. It could’ve gone either way, but unfortunately we lost it on penalties. But they’re a good side – they’ve evolved into a very good side over the years. We know, if we’re going to get something on Sunday, we’ll have to be at our best. We’re capable – as we’ve seen – so we look forward to the challenge.”