Steve Bruce is facing the prospect of a new year injury crisis after seeing two of his Newcastle players pick up problems in the 2-1 defeat to Everton at St James’ Park.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored one in each half to beat the Magpies – who briefly equalised through Fabian Schar – and continue Carlo Ancelotti’s winning start as Everton boss.
Bruce, already a staunch critic of the hectic festive fixture programme, revealed Schar and Joelinton are doubts for the New Year’s Day clash with Leicester after complaining of hamstring and calf injuries respectively.
They could join the likes of Matt Ritchie and Paul Dummett on the sidelines but with an already stacked squad, Bruce admitted reinforcements are far from certain when the transfer window reopens.
“There’s a few plates spinning but that’s about it at the minute,” he said. “I keep saying if there’s someone out there who’ll make us better, but I won’t act unless it’s going to improve the team.
“[With a full squad] we have to make way for somebody, so I will have to let two or three go as well if we have to make changes. We have got a few injuries at the moment so hopefully we can get them back.”
Bruce cut a frustrated figure after his side’s first back-to-back Premier League defeats since August and he felt they did not get what they deserved for a relatively vibrant performance.
A missed first-minute chance for Miguel Almiron – whom Bruce believed should have been awarded a penalty – was followed by Calvert-Lewin putting the Toffees in front after nine minutes.
Schar’s looping equaliser early in the second half gave his side hope they could go on to claim victory but the optimism only lasted for eight minutes before a mistake by Andy Carroll saw Richarlison sweep clear and cross for Calvert-Lewin to slot home his second.
Nevertheless, Bruce paid tribute to the impact of Ancelotti, who has now won his first two games since being appointed at Goodison Park – with Calvert-Lewin scoring all three of his side’s goals in the process.
He added: “I don’t think there was much in it but I think Everton are a very good side. Over the last month you can see them gaining that little bit of confidence and they have got good players.”
Ancelotti’s vast experience means he is undaunted by the prospect of testing his bright start against Manchester City on New Year’s Day, followed by an FA Cup derby against Liverpool.
“The target of this team is to do our best against Manchester City and then Liverpool,” he said. “It will be difficult but I think the spirit is good in the squad and we can do that.”
The renewed optimism around Goodison Park was reflected in the performance of Moise Kean, who impressed on a rare start before being substituted just past the hour mark.
Having arrived for big money and to much fanfare from Juventus in August, Kean became a bit-part player under former boss Marco Silva but Ancelotti is clearly determined to wrest the best out of his fellow Italian.
He added: “Moise played well in my opinion. We wanted to impose pressure on the defenders and for a while we did that and he was dangerous.
“After that to have more balance in the middle, I substituted a striker, and I think for him in that moment he had lost a little bit of power, but for me it was enough.
“I think it was the right time to take him out. It doesn’t matter how many minutes a player wants to play – maybe a player can play one minute and it is the most important minute of the game. So his performance for one hour was good.”
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