Newcastle United handed selection boost ahead of Man City test

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It's been quite a year for Newcastle United.

Following his appointment last summer, Steve Bruce was expected to struggle at St James' Park with many tipping him to get the club relegated after several seasons on the brink.

But despite all of the uncertainty regarding a potential takeover of the club, Bruce has duly delivered.

The Magpies find themselves in 13th place in the Premier League with 39 points, meaning that they're just one point away from the much-coveted 40-point thresh-hold which symbolises safety from relegation.

Few would have imagined that the club would be on the cusp of safety with seven games remaining, and for that Bruce deserves credit.

As well as performing well in the league, Newcastle United have also enjoyed an excellent run in the FA Cup.

Managers in the past have not taken the competition seriously on Tyneside, but knowing how much a cup run would mean to the area, Bruce took a different approach by playing a strong side in each round.

It has certainly paid off.

The Toon Army host Manchester City on Sunday evening with a place in the FA Cup semi-finals up for grabs, and you can guarantee that Bruce will be looking to secure a spot at Wembley.

However, they may have to do it without some key players.

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Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie are both doubts for the visit of Pep Guardiola's side.

Both players suffered muscle injuries in the draw with Aston Villa, with Steve Bruce expected to make a late decision on their availability.

While Florian Lejeune and Ciaran Clark are both ruled out of the game, brothers Sean and Matty Longstaff could make a return to action.

GIVEMESPORT'S Phil Spencer says...

What an opportunity this is for Newcastle United.

With Premier League survival all-but confirmed, attention can now turn to the FA Cup as Steve Bruce looks to make it a memorable first season.

While it's a bitter shame that supporters aren't allowed at St James' Park to enjoy such an occasion, that hope is that a potential takeover could lead to more big occasions on Tyneside over the coming years as Newcastle look to push themselves into the upper echelons of the Premier League and challenge for major honours.

A clash with Manchester City is pretty much as tough as it can get, and you know that a capacity crowd at St James' Park would have made this clash a much different proposition.

However Steve Bruce's side will be hoping to put on a show for the thousands of supporters watching at home.

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