Steve Bruce has admitted he has a big decision to make as he prepares to unleash leading scorer Callum Wilson on the Premier League once again.
The £20million summer signing, who had 10 goals to his name when he tore a hamstring against Southampton on February 6, is back in training and available for Sunday’s trip to Burnley as the fight for top-flight survival approaches crunch point.
However, asked if he would be able to start both Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin, who returned from a groin injury as a substitute against Tottenham last weekend, at Turf Moor, Bruce said: “Well, that’s the big decision I have to make, of course.
“I’m mindful of the fact that both of them, they aren’t impact, they’re muscle injuries – a groin and a hamstring, which always you’ve got to box carefully with.
🎙 Steve Bruce speaks to the media ahead of #BURNEW on Sunday.— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) April 9, 2021
"Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin have trained all week and that's good news for us. They're available. Callum's trained well, he looks well, he's confident in himself so let's hope he stays well." pic.twitter.com/XbZfN2zZow
“But I’m also wary that we’ve only got six weeks of the season left, so I hope I make the right choice.”
Bruce’s joy at Wilson’s impending return – the Magpies have won none of the seven games he has missed – has been tempered by the prospect of losing skipper Jamaal Lascelles for the run-in with the central defender due to undergo scans on a suspected stress fracture of his foot on Friday.
The 60-year-old Bruce said: “Obviously, we’ve still got two days of training when we train today and tomorrow, but Callum and Allan have trained all week, so that’s good news for us that they’re available.
“The disappointing thing is we’ve lost the captain, Lascelles, with a foot injury which unfortunately happened last week against Spurs, so that’s a blow to us. With Fab Schar missing too, it leaves us a bit light there.
“It’s not looking so good at the moment. He’s going to have more scans and all the rest of it today and over the weekend, but it’s not looking good. He won’t play this weekend, that’s for sure.”
Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark, who was an unused substitute for the 2-2 draw with Spurs on Sunday, is likely to deputise for Lascelles, although Federico Fernandez is also back after recovering from a calf problem, but has not played since January 12.
Newcastle have drawn four of their last five games and sit three points clear of the relegation zone heading into the latest round of fixtures after briefly dropping into the bottom three when Fulham took the lead at Aston Villa.
Bruce said: “I got home last week and my good lady had cooked me Sunday lunch. By the time we were just sitting down, [Aleksandar] Mitrovic had just scored for Fulham, and by the time I’d had my apple pie and custard, they’d lost 3-1.”