Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce fears two of his players are suffering the lasting effects of long-term Covid-19.
The Magpies were forced to close their training ground and postpone the Premier League trip to Aston Villa earlier this month as coronavirus swept through the club, and the repercussions are ongoing.
Defender Federico Fernandez and midfielder Isaac Hayden have returned to action after recovering from the virus, but Bruce will again be without several unnamed players for Saturday’ clash with Fulham at St James’ Park, and he has revealed two of them are particularly unwell.
Asked when they might be able to re-join the squad, Bruce said: “A couple of the players in particular, it’s had a damaging effect, so it won’t be a week or two, it’s going to be longer than that.
“We’re not just talking about an injury here, a calf strain, we’re talking of a virus which unfortunately has damaged them.
“Obviously we’ll try our utmost to make sure that we look after them and their welfare. We’ll adhere to the rules and do everything we can.
“You accept injuries, but a virus like this is obviously new to everybody. I’ve seen the effect now it has on extremely fit, young professional footballers and the effect it’s had on them and two of them in particular.
“Yes, we’re at a disadvantage and we hope, for my sake as well as the players’, they do recover properly and give them time to recover because it’s the welfare of the player and their long-term health.
“This long-term Covid, if one or two of them have got it like they seem to have, then it’s very, very difficult to manage.”
The Magpies scrapped their way to a commendable 2-1 win over West Brom on Tyneside last weekend, but were thumped 5-2 at Leeds in midweek as they wilted at the death, although Bruce is refusing to use the outbreak as an excuse.
Instead, he is looking to the positives of two big fixtures inside four days with Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup quarter-final trip to Brentford following hot on the heels of the Fulham game.
Bruce said: “We usually class Christmas as the halfway stage and if you get to 20 points by Christmas, you’re usually jumping up and down, so we’ve got a great opportunity and how great it would be.
“Can we get to 20 points and can we be in the semi-final of a cup? It would be tremendous.”
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