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Goalkeeping dilemma for Bruce

Steve Bruce admitted he has a "decision to make" on who begins between the sticks for Newcastle United's Premier League visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday night (kick-off 8pm).

The Magpies welcome Nuno Espiríto Santo's side to St. James' Park this weekend, aiming for back-to-back league wins on home soil for the first time since December 2019 but Bruce faces a selection headache for which goalkeeper he starts against Wanderers between Karl Darlow or Martin Dúbravka.

The United head coach also revealed Joelinton would be available for the Wolves clash after the Brazilian forward was forced off against Manchester United due to a groin injury but admitted the game may be too soon for centre-back Federico Fernández

"Like every position, I have a decision to make," Bruce said. "Karl (Darlow) has done fantastically well. Our goalkeeper (Martin Dúbravka) who has been our Player of the Year for the last two years has been missing for six months. He only came back in December so Karl has done a fantastic job. 

"You have to pick a team every week and will disappoint people. That's the hardest part of the job and making sure they are part of the squad.

"Joelinton is OK. Fede Fernández has trained all week but it still might be a bit too early for him but everyone else is OK.

"Javier Manquillo is doing very well, better than what we thought, with his ankle injury. Fabian Schär had his operation so is still in crutches and a knee brace and Callum Wilson is now three or four weeks away. He's making good progress but obviously it's a muscle injury so we have to be careful."

Wolves, who have finished seventh in consecutive Premier League campaigns since lifting the 2017/18 Championship title, currently lie eight points above United in 12th place and target a third successive league win after victories against Southampton and Leeds United.

Nuno's squad experienced a winless run of nine league matches before their unbeaten league streak, claiming three wins and one draw so far this month, with Bruce fully aware of the threat the West Midlands outfit possess.

"It would have been nice to have played them a month ago," he added. "Sometimes, there lies your bit of luck where one or two of their big players were missing in that period.

"However, they're a very good side. They have been a very good outfit for the last two years but we played well against them at Molineux (a 1-1 draw in October) so let's hope for more of the same this weekend. It's another difficult game but a one I'm quietly confident we can get a result from.

United can extend the gap away from Fulham, who occupy 18th place in the division, to six points with a much-needed victory against Wolves before the Cottagers face Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon.

Bruce stressed, however, that there are a number of teams who face the fear of relegation and remains determined in maintaining Premier League status by the end of the 2020/21 campaign.

"It's all to play for," he said. "It's not just Fulham - there's probably six or seven teams who are looking nervously over their shoulder. We're one of them, we understand that, but there is still a long, long way to go. 

"You have to play everybody twice and it's your accumulation of points over the season which is the key to it and getting to that magical figure. Whatever it is, you want to try and get to it as quickly as you can. 

"When you're up against it you need to have a bit of luck on your side. We have to stay clear of injuries which has been a problem, Covid as well, so we're now hoping we can have a clear run and players will roll their sleeves up and be prepared to do their utmost to stay in the division."

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Steve Bruce's pre-Wolves media briefing in full

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