Newcastle have an FA Cup tie in January, and in light of Matt Ritchie’s injury in the EFL Cup defeat in August, Steve Bruce has a big decision to make.

When he arrived, Bruce spoke of targeting the cup competitions, and saw the FA Cup in particular, as an opportunity for silverware.

But when Newcastle played Leicester in August, he made a number of changes, much to the dismay of some supporters, as the club crashed out at the first step.

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One player who was not rested, was Matt Ritchie, and unfortunately for him – and Bruce – the influential winger-cum-wing-back was on the receiving end of a shocking challenge from Hamza Choudhury, and has not played since.

Because of that, when Newcastle travel to either non-league Boston United or League One Rochdale, Bruce has a dilemma over his team selection.

Having previously suggested taking the cup games seriously, he should be thinking of playing a strong, if not his strongest, side, regardless of the opposition.

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But after losing Ritchie for five months – he is not expected back until the end of January – after playing him in the August cup game, he may now be reluctant to risk most of his first-team regulars.


Newcastle fans will be expecting a strong lineup

Should he leave a number out, he risks the wrath of the fans, who will remember his comments from the summer, and would be likely to call him out on it.

And if the unthinkable happens, and Newcastle are beaten by whichever of their lowly opponents they face, having rested most of his best players, the knives will certainly be out for Bruce.

I have a little sympathy for the manager here though, as he is sure to be wary of what happened to Ritchie, happening again to an Allan Saint-Maximin or Fabian Schar.

(Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Getty Images)

Against a side hoping for a huge giant-killing, with over-enthusiastic players wanting to rattle their Premier League visitors by flying in with hefty tackles, there is a real danger of another injury occurring.

Bruce may feel having so-called ‘lesser’ opposition, he will have the opportunity to change things around, and still make it through the game comfortably, but it will be a dangerous game to play.

So when the FA Cup rolls around in the first weekend of 2020, all eyes will be on Bruce’s team selection, and for his sake, I hope he sticks to his word.

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