Steve Bruce admits he is “shooting in the dark” with options for Newcastle vs. Liverpool

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Steve Bruce has urged his Newcastle side to “shut a few people up” by turning around their poor run of form.

Magpies boss Bruce and his players have come in for some heavy criticism from supporters lately, particularly after last week’s frustrating Carabao Cup quarter-final loss to Championship side Brentford.

Newcastle are without a win in four games in all competitions – a sequence which also includes a 5-2 hammering by Leeds – but Bruce was at least pleased with the performance in the 2-0 Boxing Day loss at Manchester City.

Bruce said: “There was certainly a togetherness, an attitude and application amongst them. Yes, they were beaten by the better team on the night but the way they stuck together and had a go, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“I hope that came through on the television. Certainly I witnessed that on the touchline.

“Of course they’re only human beings – criticism hurts – but I hope I can create a mentality to make sure that we roll our sleeves up and shut a few people up, and the only way we can do that is get a few results and keep working as hard as we can.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 26, 2020: Liverpool’s Naby Keita (L) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (R) challenge Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie during the final match of the FA Premier League season between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St. James' Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propagandab)

The task does not get any easier, with the City game followed by a visit from champions Liverpool on Wednesday and then another from high-flying Leicester in their first match of the new year.

Bruce is not fazed by the challenge.

He said: “When you get two or three of the big ones back to back you would like a week to recover, to make sure you get going again, and we have been pitted against probably the two best teams in the country back to back.

“But bring it on. Let’s get ready for it, let’s recover and see what we can do.

“We know what to expect, we know what is coming. We need to go and perform like we did at City and have a bit more in the final third. We’ve got to show the same resilience against a very good Liverpool team.”

Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles applauds the fans after the final whistle - Richard Sellers/EMPICS Sport

Newcastle’s problems have not been helped by the spate of COVID-19 infections which have swept through their club this month.

A game against Aston Villa was postponed early in December and two key players, captain Jamaal Lascelles and Allan Saint-Maximin, are still out after suffering illness.

Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez both returned to the side against City but neither are considered to be back to full fitness.

On top of that none of Ryan Fraser, Jonjo Shelvey and Callum Wilson were risked at the Etihad Stadium because of injuries.

Bruce said: “I have been shooting in the dark a bit. I didn’t think Fab Schar would be available but he trained a couple of days and said he felt fine. It’ll be interesting to know how he recovers and Feddy is the same.

“It’s been very difficult when you have got the numbers we have had. One thing you want is a fully-fit, healthy squad but this thing hangs around.

“There is slightly better news on the skipper – he’s done a little bit of light stuff – but unfortunately we’re still weeks away with Saint-Maximin.”

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