Federico Fernandez is set to hand Steve Bruce a Boxing Day boost with the Newcastle United defender on course to make his return to action at Manchester City.
According to The Northern Echo, the centre-half is being assessed ahead of Saturday night’s clash with Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues after he was substituted off at the half-time break during last weekend’s draw with Fulham having shown signs of serious fatigue.
Bruce linked the Argentine’s issues to Newcastle’s recent coronavirus outbreak, and was forced to tackle Tuesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Brentford without Fernandez plus fellow defensive options Fabian Schar and Jamaal Lascelles.
Bruce is hopeful Fernandez will be passed fit to face the Citizens on Boxing Day as Newcastle begin a testing run of festive fixtures, with a midweek meeting with champions Liverpool to follow before hosting Leicester City next Sunday.
Fernandez is well-regarded as being the Toon’s most consistent centre-half thus far this season and one who could ease Bruce’s defensive concerns, after being forced to start Isaac Hayden out of position to help cover with his mounting challenges.
“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.
“We have freshened things up, but we are desperately short in defensive areas where it has hit us most badly. We will be looking to freshen things up if we can, and it’s vitally important we do that because we have some big games coming up.”
Fernandez’s return would certainly be a welcome boost for Bruce against Manchester City, providing the £4m-rated 31-year-old has regained his match-fitness and will not need replacing at the break once again.
The former Swansea City man, who Bruce lauds as a “great professional”, has started all 12 of his Premier League appearances thus far this season, only sitting out the Magpies’ 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion earlier this month.
His efforts in those fixtures have returned 64 clearances and blocked a team-high 19 shots – almost twice as many as any other Newcastle player in both accounts – plus 10 successful tackles and five interceptions while winning 18 ground duels and 22 aerial contests, per SofaScore.
Fernandez’s return to fitness would come at the perfect time for Bruce, after Manchester City appeared to near the best with a dominant win over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night to stretch their unbeaten run to nine games across all competitions.