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Magpies must be "absolutely at our best" against City, says Bruce

Written by Tom Easterby

Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce believes his side will have to be at their best if they’re to earn a repeat of last season’s win over Manchester City – and has backed his front three ahead of Saturday’s visit of the champions.

The Magpies face Pep Guardiola’s men at St. James’ Park (12:30pm kick-off) looking to extend their unbeaten home run to six Premier League games.

United beat City 2-1 on a memorable evening on Tyneside last term, with Matt Ritchie’s penalty sealing the win for the hosts, and head coach Bruce knows his charges must be on top of their game if they are to inflict another defeat on City.

“We’re at home, and we’ve done OK against Chelsea and Liverpool, and we’ve beaten Man U and beaten Spurs away,” he said. “The one thing we’re going to have to be is be absolutely at our best, at our maximum, and hope that Man City have a rare off-day. They don’t have many, let’s be perfectly honest, they’re an unbelievably good football team – as good as you get, probably.

“So we’re going to have to play at our best, have a gameplan that works against them, defend well, and give it our best shot. That’s what you have to do.”

There has been plenty of discussion around the Magpies’ attacking trio of Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almirón and Joelinton in recent weeks, with the latter the only of the three to have netted so far this term.

Their speed and industry helped United record back-to-back wins over West Ham and Bournemouth this month, though, and Bruce has backed his forwards, insisting their contribution to the team outweighs their misfortune in front of goal.

“Against Bournemouth I thought the front three were excellent,” he said. “I thought against West Ham (with) the movement and pace of them, on the day, it could have been five. The question is always going to be, ‘how long do you wait?’, because they haven’t scored a goal.

“Up until last week in particular, against Aston Villa where we weren’t good enough across the board, I’ve been delighted with the front three. Yes, I would love them to score a goal, but the threat that they’ve caused at the top end of the pitch and what they contribute towards the team is the thing that I look at.

“We all want them, of course, to score a goal, and we all think that when they do score, we’ll be fine. It’s getting that balance right with what we’ve got, and as I’ve said, in the previous game before Aston Villa against Bournemouth and against West Ham they were terrific, so I’ll keep persevering with them.”

Bruce also revealed that defender DeAndre Yedlin is a doubt for the game against City, with the American suffering from a hip problem.

Aside from that, and with Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie also out injured, Bruce has a fully-fit squad to choose from.

On Ritchie undergoing a second ankle operation, he added: “We’re all disappointed. There’s nothing worse for a player than when you have an operation like he has, and the surgeon decides he needs to do a little bit more. We’re devastated, and so is he.

“We did give him a period of rest, he went to see the specialist again and had the operation the next morning. We hope this time that he’s back in training in early January – it’s nothing too horrific, so they say – and let’s hope this time it’s done the trick.”

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