Steve Bruce has hailed the “outstanding” Jonjo Shelvey as he attempts to piece together a team to take on Manchester City on Wednesday evening.
Shelvey’s second-half equaliser against West Ham on Sunday not only capped another impressive individual display, but secured a 2-2 draw and the point which mathematically assured the Magpies of their place in next season’s Premier League.
Asked about the 28-year-old midfielder, head coach Bruce said: “If there’s anybody who has taken on board what we require and what we want, then it’s Jonjo.
“It becomes easy, the game of football, like a game of golf, to him. He’s blessed with a natural ability.
“He can see a pass that other people can’t, he can deliver a pass he can score a goal. Physically and mentally, he’s bought into everything we’ve tried to put over to him and fair play to him.
“At the minute, he’s reaping the benefits of how good he looks, and of course he’s playing at the top of his game, which is always good to see because he has been outstanding in the last few games.”
Shelvey may be surrounded by new faces at the Etihad Stadium with Isaac Hayden having joined Sean Longstaff on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury and frontmen Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll all doubts.
Bruce said: “The demand on the players has been totally difficult, if I am being brutally honest, with the preparation time that we were given.
“But everybody has been in the same boat and I think we all understand that we’re going to pick up a lot of injuries along the way just because of the intensity the Premier League demands.”
The teams met at St James’ Park in the FA Cup quarter-finals on June 28 when Kevin De Bruyne’s penalty and a second goal from Raheem Sterling clinched a comfortable win for the visitors on an afternoon when the hosts were too passive for Bruce’s liking.
Asked if his side might take a more progressive approach this time around, he said: “We’d all love to say, ‘Come on, we’re going to take you on’, but you have to understand that they have better players than us, so we have to come up with something.
“We didn’t do enough against them in the cup. We have to be a bit more aggressive with our approach and let’s hope we can do it.”
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