While everyone knows that Premier League survival is of paramount importance to the Magpies, there is no denying that a cup run would have lifted the spirits around St James’ Park and given the supporters something to cheer in what is proving to be a tense campaign already.
Instead, it took the lottery of a penalty shoot-out to see Leicester advance and Steve Bruce’s side crash out of the second round of the League Cup on Wednesday night, which will no doubt come as a bit of a blow to the manager.
Before the game he spoke about taking the cups seriously but with seven changes to the starting XI, Leicester making just two, there will have been many questioning just how much attention he was paying to Wednesday’s tie.
Speaking after the game, Bruce revealed why there were so many changes – some expected, some not – to his side, telling the Chronicle: “Saint-Maximin is obviously one; Joelinton’s two with a groin injury; Almiron’s got an ankle [injury].
“I don’t think I could have risked Atsu, who hadn’t played for weeks, and of course young Longy [Sean] as well, I think three games in six days was too much for him considering he’s just had a serious knee injury.”
Considering the impact that Christian Atsu and Joelinton had against Tottenham in their last match, the duo combining to score the only goal against Tottenham, Bruce was surely right to leave them out, especially considering the other injury problems he has had to contend with.
Of the five missing men mentioned, four are attacking options, leaving the Newcastle boss severely lacking when it comes to cutting edge up front.
Yoshinori Muto, arguably the only natural attacker in the starting XI against Leicester, did what he needed by getting on the scoresheet but it was quite clear where the Magpies were lacking with seven shots, just two on target.
Having seen Matt Ritchie forced off with what could potentially be ligament damage following a Hamza Choudhury challenge, Bruce’s decision to pull his attacking stars out of the firing line is surely vindicated – it could have been so much worse had Sean Longstaff or Atsu picked up the same problem.