Steve Bruce vows to get 'balance right' in seven potentially season-defining days for Newcastle United
Christmas periods are often over-laden with fixtures. But this around Newcastle United and Steve Bruce are busier than most.
Progression in the Carabao Cup has added an extra game in the midst of an already hectic festive spell of football for the Magpies.
Bruce & Co take on Leeds United this evening – their first Premier League trip to Elland Road for near 17 years – before hosting fellow newly-promoted outfit Fulham at the weekend. Completing a seven-day spell, United then take on Brentford for a place in the last four of the League Cup.
And Bruce, already nursing a squad with injuries and feeling their way out the back end of a Premier League-halting COVID-19 outbreak, knows he will have to get the balance right, in what could turn out to be a season-defining period for the Magpies.
“It’s always a big week in Newcastle but we’ve given ourselves a platform. We have given ourselves a wonderful opportunity that we’ve go to look forward to,” said Bruce.
“When you look at Leeds and what they’ve got you know it’s going to be difficult. Fulham are a different side to what they were two months ago so they’ve made huge strides as well and then Brentford are a very good side as well.
“It’s a big, important week and let’s hope we can get a few more points and get through to a semi-final, that would be great for everybody concerned.”
United lack defenders, at present, but have most of their attacking threats intact.
Can United play with some freedom knowing they have a decent gap to the relegation spots?
“Freedom? Look, it’s like I’ve always said, it’s about getting the balance right,” said Bruce.
"Slowly but surely we are getting towards that where I think we’re a threat at the top end of the pitch and that maybe was where we needed to be improve.
"It’s coming, let’s hope they can stay with us. Certainly when you look at the quality we’ve got now. Dwight’s (Gayle) fit, Andy Carroll is fit, Ryan Fraser is fit, Callum’s (Wilson) okay, Miggy’s (Miguel Almiron) okay so all of a sudden we’re better in that department so it gives me more confidence than 18 months ago, when we arrived.”