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Mixed news on strikers' injury front, Bruce reveals

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Steve Bruce has confirmed that forward pair Dwight Gayle and Yoshinori Muto are closing in on a return to action for Newcastle United, with fellow striker Joelinton passed fit to play against Arsenal on Sunday.

The latter was forced off the pitch just moments after finding the net against Oxford United in the FA Cup a week past Tuesday, while Gayle and Muto have both been missing since early January.

But all three could yet come into the squad for this weekend’s trip to the Emirates Stadium, although Bruce revealed that the Magpies’ other recognised frontman, Andy Carroll, is likely to be out for a little longer.

Describing Joelinton’s swift recovery, Bruce said: “It was a knock. There was no fracture, so he’s OK. (There were) four, five or six days off for him and (Miguel) Almirón – the ones who have been at the pump constantly; they needed a break more than anybody. They’ve come back and they’ve been OK.

“We’re just going to assess whether it’s a little bit early for Muto and Dwight. They’re training, of course. The big problem we’ve got is that Andy’s still not right, so that’s a concern for us going forward. We expected him to be OK but unfortunately he’s not. Thankfully it’s not his ankle, but with this hip, hip flexor or whatever it is, he gets to a certain level in his rehabilitation and he’s still not quite right. We just have to keep monitoring him and see how he is.

“It’s a big frustration. There was a time just before Christmas when we were looking and he’d made a few assists and started a few games, and that’s exactly why we brought him into the club. And unfortunately he’s picked up this injury, which has drifted into five or six weeks when we expected it to be ten days. I’m sure he’s as frustrated as we all are, but unfortunately he’s got to try and get fit and hopefully be ready in a couple of weeks or whenever it will be. We’re not putting a timescale on it; it’s just the way it is.”

Arsenal beat the Magpies 1-0 at a rain-soaked St. James’ Park on the opening weekend of the campaign but have since won just five times in the Premier League. Their boss that day, Unai Emery, was dismissed in November, with former Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta taking charge the following month.

United will leapfrog Arsenal with a win in North London, a scenario Bruce admitted he wouldn’t have thought possible on the back of the two sides’ largely forgettable last meeting.

“I didn’t think we’d be on level points, I’ll tell you that, and I didn’t think we’d win two more games than Arsenal,” the Magpies’ head coach said. “But it’s the Premier League, and it is what it is. Even at a mighty club like Arsenal… is ‘transition’ the right word? It’s a different style, different manager and it shows you how difficult it is – even at a big club like Arsenal – to have change and turnaround.

“I think we’ve done OK. We’ve had some huge problems over the last six weeks, and fair play to the squad for showing that resilience that they’ve shown in many, many games. It can’t be a fluke – not over 25 games, anyway – that they have a certain resilience about them and a certain pride about them, which is there every day they train and (every time they) play. They’re a good set who roll up their sleeves and make sure they have a go. When you’ve got a team like that, you’ve always got a chance.”

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