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Saint-Maximin fit for Liverpool trip

Allan Saint-Maximin will be available for Newcastle United’s trip to Liverpool on Saturday after overcoming a knock suffered against West Ham last weekend, head coach Steve Bruce has confirmed.

The winger picked up an impact injury in the victory over the Hammers last time out which left him limping when he withdrawn after another fine performance for the Magpies.

But the influential Frenchman has trained this week, and Bruce says the 24-year-old – who has been in dazzling form since his return from a hamstring problem earlier this month – is fit to play a part at Anfield (12:30pm kick-off).

"Allan has only played two 90 minutes this year. He's had an awful time with injury, an awful time with COVID, and that’s the biggest challenge," Bruce said while addressing the media. "I hope that we can overcome (it) shortly – that you don’t ask me, first question, 'how’s Allan?' It's every Newcastle supporter I bump into, 'how's Allan?' 'Is Allan fit for the weekend?'

"He's OK, thankfully. He's trained all week. It was a kick, a knock to his ankle, but he does take a few kicks and he takes a few whacks. It's always going to be a constant uphill battle with him, but he's OK."

Bruce also delivered some encouraging news on the fitness of leading goalscorer Callum Wilson, who is also in line to feature against last season’s champions, while Fabian Schär is also working towards a return, which is a boost for United as fellow defender Jamaal Lascelles remains sidelined.

Scotland winger Ryan Fraser, though, is still out with a groin problem, while Mark Gillespie is likely to deputise for the injured Karl Darlow in providing backup for Martin Dúbravka.

"Callum's perfectly OK too, and the addition of Fab Schär, he's worked extremely hard and trained all week. Maybe the weekend is a bit too early for him but the good thing about Fab is that he's desperate to play, as always, so it's good to see him back," he said.

"Karl Darlow, unfortunately, had a small operation on his knee so he'll be out for a few weeks, and the same goes for Ryan Fraser, so that's about it in terms of injuries."

Manchester City look certain to reclaim the Premier League title from Liverpool in the coming weeks, and Bruce wants his side to show what they're capable of at the end of what has been an eventful week for their hosts, with vital points – and United’s top flight status – still to play for.

"We're going to have to play well. We played very well in the first half last week, and we played well against Spurs. We've had a decent couple of weeks, and 35 points isn't going to be enough so we've got to desperately try to get something," he said.

"Let's hope we can go and play and play well – we’re going to have to, because Liverpool are Liverpool. They've had a difficult season for their standards over the last couple, but certainly, what we've been watching over this last week anyway, there've been signs of Liverpool of old – they’ve played very well lately."

And Bruce also indicated he was pleased to see the collapse of the European Super League proposals this week, which concerned the involvement of six English clubs – including the Magpies’ opponents this weekend.

Bruce, who began his playing career in the lower divisions, believes the “spectacle” of less-fancied clubs being able to “flourish” is something that makes the English game special and should not be tampered with, and welcomed the condemnation of the proposals by supporters across the country.

"The whole thing is not right, and they’ve taken a slapping. Well done to the supporters – well done to the supporters, because they’re proud of what we’ve got in our country and the way football works," he said.

"Even if you’re not one of the so-called big six, and you support a club which is dear to me, (like) Gillingham, and what it means to the town of Gillingham – how it's a struggle year in, year-out for the owner to keep making it work. How often have we seen it, the small club flourish and do well?

"Let's be fair, Leicester won the Premier League a few years ago. That's the beauty of England and the spectacle that we have is the fierce competition.

"West Brom, second bottom of the league, going and winning with five (goals) at Chelsea. Sheffield United, cut adrift, going and winning at Old Trafford. That's the spectacle that we enjoy and the competition that we enjoy in this country."

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