Newcastle boss Steve Bruce will not gamble on the fitness of key duo Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin as he gears up for a Premier League survival fight.
Frenchman Saint-Maximin could make his comeback from a three-game lay-off with a groin injury against Tottenham on Sunday, while leading scorer Wilson, who has missed the last six matches with a hamstring tear, may have to wait a little longer.
However Bruce, who saw Miguel Almiron struggle to make an impact on his return from a knee problem in the 3-0 defeat at Brighton last time out, will not take risks by throwing his most influential players back in too soon.
He said: “You rely then, of course, on the sports scientists, doctors, physios – and we’ve got them in abundance at the club, who have been here a long time.
“Yes, we’ll guard with caution because they’re both muscle injuries, so you cannot rush a muscle injury. You have to be guarded against it.
“Look, I’ll take the advice of the people who work at the club behind the scenes in that department and make the right choice, I hope.”
Bruce’s desperation to have his most potent weapons back in the armoury is understandable, with Newcastle having won only two of their last 18 league games to slip to within two points of the relegation zone.
In the circumstances, a home clash with Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, who have won on five of their last six visits to Tyneside, may not be the ideal fixture.
Bruce said: “Look, when you ever play against Jose’s team, then you know first and foremost we’re going to have to play well, and they had a decent result last time out.
“For me, Jose, the criticism that he receives is, in my opinion, ridiculous because here is one of the greats. Over the last 20 years, what he’s done, what he’s been and what he’s done in the Premier League is there for everybody to see.
“They’ve got quality players in big areas of the pitch, so like always against the big teams, we’ll have to play well.”
The Magpies head coach will at least have an in-form Ryan Fraser at his disposal following his return from international duty having scored in Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Israel and the Faroe Islands.
Bruce said: “Good for him. It’s been a constant fight to get Ryan up to speed. I’m delighted for him that he’s got a couple of goals under his belt. That can only give him a bit of confidence, great.”