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We'll play as strong a team as possible, says Bruce

Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce says he will field as strong a team as he possibly can for Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie at Rochdale – despite injuries having depleted his squad in the last week.

The Magpies boss – who is hoping to welcome Matt Ritchie back into his squad for the clash at the Crown Oil Arena – saw four of his charges suffer injuries during Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to Leicester City, leaving United to finish the game at St. James’ Park with ten men.

Jetro Willems, Javier Manquillo, Jonjo Shelvey and Fabian Schär were all withdrawn against the Foxes, and Bruce confirmed that none of them would be fit to play any part against Dale.

But he signalled his intent to send out a capable side against the League One outfit, though he also said that the situation could hand an opportunity to some younger players.

“None of them will play,” Bruce said of the Willems, Manquillo, Shelvey and Schär. “(DeAndre) Yedlin, we think, might be OK. He’s got a terrible hand injury, thankfully it’s not broken, but he’s going to be OK.

“(With Paul) Dummett, (Ciaran) Clark, (Jamaal) Lascelles, we all hope that maybe (they will be fit) for Wolves, but certainly not the weekend. Ritchie is training, and if all goes well today, then he’ll take part on the bench.

“We’ll play as strong as we possibly can. I said when I walked through the door that the FA Cup is the FA Cup. I would love to be able to freshen us up and do this, that and the other, but when you’ve got injuries there’s always an opportunity.

“I think Longy (Sean Longstaff) came in this time last year because of injuries, and look what’s happened to that boy. We’ve still got to be strong, do our best, and see if we can progress to the next round.”

Ritchie’s pending return from the ankle injury he suffered in August is a boost for Bruce’s side, who have felt the impact of what proved to be a testing festive fixture schedule.

But Bruce, a three-time winner of the FA Cup during his playing days, says Newcastle must “accept it and move on” as they look to progress in the competition.

“It is what it is. I’ve never known a 15 minutes like it, and I did predict a month ago that the schedule was ridiculous and we don’t have the resources to have huge rotation,” he said. “Up until Saturday our record for this season was far better than last year in terms of injuries, especially soft tissue injuries. We’ve had a couple with Matt Ritchie and Lascelles in particular which were impact – there’s not much you can do about that. The one thing you want to be doing with the sport science that we have today is the prevention of injuries, and especially soft tissue injuries.

“For me, it’s just the number of games in a short period of time and asking footballers to play tired. Unfortunately we’ve picked up the consequence of it. It is what it is, and we have to accept it and move on.”

United’s opponents Rochdale currently sit 18th in the third tier, four points above the relegation zone, though they did earn a 2-1 victory over Accrington Stanley – just their second win in ten – last time out.

Bruce has warned his side must be wary of Brian Barry-Murphy’s men as they look to avoid an upset.

“That’s why the TV cameras are there – they’re wanting that upset,” he said. “We’ll treat it with the huge respect that it deserves – it’s the FA Cup and we all know what it entails.

“That’s why, for me, it’s a great competition. We’ll have to be at our best, we’ll have to have a strong enough team, and get ready for it.”


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Steve Bruce's pre-Rochdale media briefing in full

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