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Ritchie set to be out for two months, says Bruce

Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce says Matt Ritchie is set to miss two months with an ankle injury – while a handful of his squad are doubts for Saturday’s visit of Watford.

Ritchie was forced off during Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup defeat to Leicester City after Hamza Choudhury’s challenge on him before the break.

Ahead of this weekend’s clash with the Hornets at St. James’ Park (3pm kick-off), Bruce confirmed that the wing-back suffered ankle ligament damage in the tackle – for which Choudhury only received a yellow card – and could now be out for up to eight weeks.

“It’s not great news. I think he’s going to be two months, (or) eight weeks. There is ankle ligament damage too, bone bruising and cuts. The kid was in a mess the other night. Thankfully it’s not six months, but it’s bad enough when it’s the best part of eight weeks,” he said.

“He’s angry, frustrated, disappointed, whatever you want to call it. But he’s a great character, Matt, and he’ll get over it, and I’m sure when he gets over the next few days he’ll get to work on getting himself back right.”

Bruce will also have to check on the fitness of a number of his charges ahead of the game against Javi Gracia’s men, with full backs Emil Krafth and Jetro Willems both nursing muscle problems.

Meanwhile, forward Joelinton – whose winner earned United their first three points of the season at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday – is expected to be fit, while Miguel Almirón (ankle) remains a doubt.

With Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring) set to be sidelined for “at least three weeks, but anywhere between three weeks and five” according to Bruce, and Andy Carroll not yet ready to make his second debut for the club, the upcoming international break has come at a good time for Newcastle – with Dwight Gayle and DeAndre Yedlin also among those working their way back to full fitness.

“Dwight’s been to see a specialist yesterday. Since I walked through the door, I’ve seen Dwight train once,” said Bruce.

“Yedlin trained yesterday, the first time I’ve seen him train, so one or two are starting to edge back a little bit, so hopefully we can get them all back.

“I think the break has come at the right time for a certain few, and we can put a lot of work into certain individuals who missed pre-season. It’s an ideal opportunity, and in that respect it’s good.”

United entertain a Watford side who are yet to pick up a point in the league this term, though they did record a 3-0 victory over Coventry City in the Carabao Cup second round on Tuesday night.

And Bruce is expecting a stern test from last season’s FA Cup finalists, who could include record signing Ismaila Sarr after he opened his account for Gracia’s side against the League One Sky Blues in midweek.

“We’ve concentrated on Watford and they’ve got a very, very good team,” he said. “They’ve had a disappointing start, but then again anybody can lose three games in the Premier League. They had a very good season last year and they’ve got some good players.

“They’ve got very, very good players. When you look at what they’ve brought in, they’ve strengthened in forward areas and they’ve got a very, very good side. It’s going to be a tough game. I was just saying to my staff there, you look through everyone in the Premier League and they’ve all got good players – that’s why the league’s the way it is. Watford have had a difficult start, but I expect a very, very difficult game.

“It’s a Premier League game, it’s a big game, but if we can get a positive result and manage to win it, to get to six points after four games will be a terrific start for us.”

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