Steve Bruce must recall Paul Dummett to the Newcastle United starting line-up against Manchester City on Boxing Day should Federico Fernandez fail his late fitness test.
Dummett earned his campaign debut in last weekend’s draw with newly-promoted Fulham, but struggled to leave a glowing rendition at left-back in his return from an 11-month injury lay off.
The Wales international could prove to be Bruce’s defensive answer this time around, however, with the Toon potentially without Fernandez after the Argentine was forced off at half-time in the Cottagers contest after showing signs of chronic fatigue.
According to The Northern Echo, Bruce linked Fernandez’s struggles to the recent outbreak of coronavirus in the Newcastle camp, but is hopeful the 31-year-old will be fit to face Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad Stadium.
Fernandez has started all 12 of his Premier League appearances thus far this season, and has proven a pivotal aspect of the Magpies’ backline with a team-high 64 clearances and having blocked 19 shots, per SofaScore.
Yet Bruce would be taking a vast gamble away to the Sky Blues were he to field an unfit Fernandez, and must ere on the side of caution and favour Dummett at centre-half should he have any lingering concerns over the former Swansea City star’s fitness levels.
Bruce is eager to return Isaac Hayden to his natural midfield role after calling on the Arsenal product to occasionally play at centre-half lately, which Dummett’s inclusion would allow for.
“I sincerely hope we’ll have a few back, certainly in the defensive areas, which then leads to putting midfield players in their right positions,” Bruce said. “It’s been very difficult for the last week or ten days.”
Hayden impressed in the heart of Newcastle’s back-four during their Carabao Cup loss to Championship side Brentford on Tuesday night, but would be far more influential should he return to the midfield line.
Dummett, meanwhile, made 12 of his 16 Premier League outings at centre-half last term prior to sustaining a season-ending hamstring injury in January, in which he provided 1.8 successful tackles from 2.1 attempts per game, plus 1.8 interceptions, 4.5 clearances and 2.0 aerial duels won from 3.9 contests, per WhoScored.
It remains to be seen if the £35,000-per-week defender can return to those levels, but Bruce must unleash Dummett on Manchester City over fielding Hayden at centre-half should Fernandez be unavailable.