STEVE BRUCE is set to keep Matty Longstaff in Newcastle United’s starting line-up for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea – and will challenge the teenager to cement a place ahead of both Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey in the Magpies midfield.

The younger of the two Longstaff brothers enjoyed a Premier League debut to remember earlier this month as he scored a second-half winner against Manchester United.

Bruce admits he thought long and hard about whether the 19-year-old was ready to step up to the starting side to replace the suspended Hayden, but his faith was justified as the Tynesider produced an accomplished display alongside his elder brother, Sean.

With Hayden due to serve the second game of his three-match ban when Newcastle travel to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Matty is expected to get another chance to highlight his credentials against one of the Premier League’s established ‘big six’.

Bruce could turn to Shelvey or Ki Sung-yueng in an attempt to add some experience to his side as they tackle one of their toughest away assignments of the season, but the Magpies boss is instead expected to pair the two Longstaff brothers alongside each other for the second game in a row.

That would be another huge vote of faith in Matty in particular, but Bruce is understood to regard the teenager’s energy and mobility as key attributes that set him apart from his rivals for a starting place.

Neither Shelvey nor Ki is especially well-suited to the harrying, pressing approach that Bruce wants from his midfield, hence his reluctance to pick either player this season. Shelvey has only started four of Newcastle’s eight league games, while Ki’s only start came in August’s 3-1 reverse at Norwich and Bruce is known to have been extremely disappointed with the South Korean’s lack of impact when he came off the bench in last month’s five-goal humiliation at Leicester City.

Playing the Longstaff brothers at the heart of midfield makes Newcastle a much more energetic force in the central areas, something that could be crucial against a Chelsea side that also have a much more youthful look under the control of Frank Lampard.

Lampard has turned to youth himself this season, and the Blues boss could be forced to turn to another academy product this weekend with 18-year-old Billy Gilmour being touted for a possible role in midfield.

Chelsea are short of midfield options for Saturday’s game with Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante both having suffered injuries while on international duty.

Kovacic is expected to miss this weekend’s match after suffering a leg injury that resulted in him being substituted during Croatia’s draw with Wales on Sunday, while Kante is rated at 50-50 for the Newcastle game after a groin problem sustained during the warm-up forced his exclusion from France’s Euro qualifier with Iceland.

Chelsea, who are already without long-term injury victim Ruben Loftus-Cheek, are also sweating on the availability of defender Andreas Christensen, who was holding his groin as he limped off in the closing stages of Denmark’s 1-0 win over Switzerland on Saturday.