Steve Bruce can scare Jurgen Klopp by unleashing Matty Longstaff for his second start of the Premier League season when Newcastle United host Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Longstaff earned his first opening call of the campaign during the Magpies’ 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on Boxing Day having struggled to earn game time this season.
Bruce had only offered the 20-year-old talent 29 minutes of top-flight action before the Etihad Stadium affair, with Longstaff suffering ongoing issues with the thigh injury first sustained towards the end of last season.
Bruce admitted concern over Longstaff’s lengthy absence earlier in the campaign with his soft-tissue injury proving “very problematic”, but was pleased with how the youngster was able to perform against Pep Guardiola’s side at the weekend.
“He gave a performance which reminded me of why I put him in the team last year,” he said, via quotes by The Northern Echo. “He’s had a really difficult time in terms of a thigh injury that he couldn’t shake off.
“He probably broke down two or three times with it. He’s not been right in himself, and lost a lot of weight in lockdown, for whatever reason. Thankfully, he’s got that back, and reminded us of what a good player he is.”
Longstaff played the full 90 minutes against Manchester City on Saturday as he upstaged his more experienced teammates Isaac Hayden, with the Toon product recording two successful tackles, two interceptions, one key ball and one successful dribble while winning four of seven ground duels, per SofaScore.
Longstaff never let his head dip amid a tough night at the Etihad Stadium, either, with the Citizens dictating the flow of play with 75% of the ball, seven big chances to score and three-times as many total passes as Newcastle.
Bruce can scare Klopp when United host Liverpool on Wednesday by retaining Longstaff in his starting plans, while demonstrating to the £4.5m-rated prospect that chances will be on offer amid reports the midfielder is considering his immediate future.
Longstaff, understood to be a January target for a number of Championship sides including Derby County and Nottingham Forest, was said by The Sun (27/12, p. 56) to be hopeful of securing a winter loan deal in order to play regular first-team football again.
Bruce awarded Longstaff his first-team debut at home to Manchester United last season and would see the 20-year-old net the winner, before scoring twice more in 15 appearances across the remainder of the campaign.