Bruce's praise for 'outstanding' Shelvey
Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce hopes midfielder Jonjo Shelvey can continue his “outstanding” form against Manchester City as the Magpies look to avenge their FA Cup quarter-final defeat on Wednesday night (6pm kick-off).
Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling booked City’s sealed City’s passage through to the semi-finals when the two sides met in the last eight at St. James’ Park ten days ago, but now United travel to the Etihad Stadium looking to inflict a second straight defeat on Pep Guardiola’s men.
Southampton saw off City on Sunday night, and Bruce says influential midfielder Shelvey – who netted Newcastle’s equaliser in their 2-2 draw with West Ham at the weekend – is getting the rewards for his efforts off the pitch over the season.
“It’s always difficult for a manager to single out an individual, but if there’s anybody who has took on board what we require and what we want, then it’s Jonjo,” said Bruce of Shelvey, who has six goals to his name this term. “Jonjo has always been blessed – it becomes easy, the game of football, like a game of golf to him. He’s blessed with a natural ability. He can see a pass that other people can’t, he can deliver a pass, he can score a goal.
“What we’ve just tried to do is get him in as good a physical shape and mentally well, and physically and mentally he’s bought in to everything we’ve tried to put over to him, and fair play to him.
“At the minute, he’s reaping the benefit of how good he looks, and of course he’s playing at the top of his game, which is always good to see because he has been outstanding in the last few.”
United have a handful of injury concerns ahead of the game, with Bruce confirming some of his key players were feeling the effects of the hectic post-restart schedule.
“Unfortunately we have picked up one or two – I won’t know the extent until this afternoon when we train at two o’clock – but it’s fair to say (Miguel) Almirón and (Allan) Saint-Maximin in particular are struggling.
“Andy Carroll picked up a groin strain, Jamaal (Lascelles) has got a sore ankle, which he’s had problems with in the past, so in that respect, we’ve got a few.
“But I suspect most of the Premier League will be thinking the exact same when we’re approaching the fifth and sixth game – it’s going to take its toll. Isaac (Hayden) and Sean Longstaff are possibly our fittest players and unfortunately they’ve picked up soft tissue injuries, so we’ve got a few problems – but then again, I’m sure most others have as well at this particular time.”
A spectacular first half effort from Che Adams was enough to secure the Saints’ victory over City at the weekend, despite Guardiola’s men dominating proceedings at St. Mary’s.
And Bruce is hopeful his side will be able to frustrate last season’s champions in a similar manner as they look to improve on the performance they put in against them in their recent cup clash.
“We’ve got to come up with something. At Southampton they did – they rode their luck a bit, but certainly in the first half there was a real tenacity about them. That’s the beauty of the Premier League – the underdogs can put up a fight and put in a performance.
“We didn’t do enough against them in the cup, admittedly, so we have to be a bit more aggressive in our approach tomorrow, that’s for sure, and hopefully we can do it.”