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'We've all tested negative for COVID-19' says relieved Newcastle boss Bruce

FOOTBALL By Reuters | December 15th 2020

Newcastle's Matt Ritchie left, and Newcastle's Jonjo Shelvey celebrate after the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (Alex Pantling,  Pool via AP)

Newcastle United have overcome the COVID-19 outbreak that stalled their season this month and everyone at the club has now tested negative ahead of Wednesday’s Premier League match at Leeds United, manager Steve Bruce said on Tuesday.

Newcastle’s training ground was closed after several players and staff were stricken by the COVID-19 earlier this month, forcing their game against Aston Villa to be postponed.

A depleted squad managed to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 over the weekend, with many players playing out of position, and Bruce was relieved to have first-team regulars back in contention ahead of a fixture crunch with six games in 18 days.

“Thankfully, we’ve all tested negative, that’s three negative over the last six days so it does seem like we’ve overcome it. The crucial thing was shutting down the training ground and it’s paid dividends,” Bruce told reporters.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Newcastle United v Chelsea - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - November 21, 2020 Chelsea's Timo Werner in action with Newcastle United's Fabian Schar [Reuters, Lindsey Parnaby]

“Federico Fernandez has tested negative and he is back. The big thing we are seeing from Saturday is fatigue so we’ll see how they are but I’m going to make changes. Ryan Fraser is fully fit and ready to go, he will be involved.

“We’re going to have to monitor it and approach it in the right way. The response from the players to get the win on Saturday was terrific. The first time we trained was on Wednesday so their attitude was there for everyone to see.”

Newcastle, 12th, are three points ahead of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds and Bruce said he expects a physical contest against one of the fittest teams in the league.

“Physically they’re number one in the Premier League. They have the ability to run long distances very quickly and that’s something Bielsa has brought in,” Bruce said.

“He’s a top class coach and manager. They’ve blown teams away doing that and we have to be ready.”

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