Newcastle United-West Brom Preview
Steve Bruce has admitted he and Matt Ritchie have had a row, but insists it has been put behind them, with the Newcastle United boss concerned by a "mole" within the club.
Newcastle face West Brom in a crucial bottom-of-the-table encounter on Sunday. Earlier in the week, reports emerged of a sensational training-ground bust-up between Bruce and Ritchie, who reportedly called his manager a "coward".
Ritchie was reportedly unhappy with Bruce pinning blame on him for Newcastle conceding against Wolves last time out.
"Look, there's no denying that I've had a row with Matt Ritchie, but let me tell you that happens up and down training grounds every other week," Bruce said. "You're dealing with 25 men, emotions run high, fiercely competitive – these things happen unfortunately, and unfortunately for us with Newcastle, of course it gets blown to all sort of proportions. Matty apologised. As far as we're concerned and me personally, it's over.
"There is a source feeding stuff. We are looking into to it to find the culprit. We're all disappointed, of course we are, and why wouldn't we be? It borders on treason, if you like. It's disgusting."
While there is much going wrong at Newcastle, West Brom's survival hopes took a blow on Thursday as they went down 1-0 to Everton.
Sam Allardyce's side had a late equaliser disallowed for offside, and the Baggies boss was also left unhappy that his team have been left with less than 72 hours to recover ahead of the Newcastle clash.
"The big problem we have got is can they perform like this again on Sunday against Newcastle?" Allardyce said. "Newcastle are not playing and we are playing on a Thursday night. That is going to be a massive disadvantage to us."
West Brom – Matt Phillips
Phillips has been directly involved in five goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Newcastle (two goals, three assists), assisting Darnell Furlong's goal earlier this season.
Newcastle United – Matt Ritchie
Though Bruce has said his row with Ritchie is over, the proof will come if the winger is in the squad on Sunday. If Ritchie does feature, he may have to be at his very best to avoid any further issues with his manager.
• Newcastle have lost eight of their last 10 Premier League away games, winning the other two. All three of the Magpies' victories on the road this season have been by a 2-0 scoreline and have been goalless at half-time.
• Allardyce has won 13 Premier League matches against his former club Newcastle (D4 L7), two more than he has against any other opponent.
• Newcastle lost their last Premier League match against a side in the relegation zone, going down 1-0 at Sheffield United. They have not lost consecutive games against teams in the bottom three within the same season since March 2013 (vs Reading and Wigan Athletic).
• West Brom have won none of their eight Premier League games played on Sundays this season, drawing two and losing six. Their last such victory in the competition was back in April 2018 at Manchester United (1-0).
• Since picking up nine points in a run of five games in November and December (W3 D0 L2), Newcastle have earned just nine points from their subsequent 15 Premier League matches (W2 D3 L10).
Updated March 5, 2021