STEVE BRUCE is adamant he will not be ripping up his tactical blueprint despite Newcastle United’s sub-standard display at Southampton in the final game before the international break.

The Magpies were comprehensively outplayed as they crashed to a 2-0 defeat at St Mary’s, with their chronic lack of attacking threat feeding in to an ongoing debate about the limitations of Bruce’s preferred playing style.

The statistics show that Newcastle create fewer chances and record fewer shots on target than just about any other team in the Premier League, and their performances tend to become even more defensive when they find themselves lining up against one of the top-flight’s established ‘big six’.

This season’s performances against Tottenham and Manchester United lacked ambition, but as he prepares to take on Chelsea at St James’ Park this lunchtime, Bruce is adamant he will not be changing tack and throwing caution to the wind.

“Look, we’re against a Chelsea team that had 70 per cent possession against Sheffield United and 70 per cent possession against Burnley in their last two games,” he said. “They’ve conceded one goal in their last six games – Frank (Lampard) has got the balance right between attacking and defending.

“No, I don’t have to rip anything up at all. I’ve always said that we need a couple of ways of play. We can’t just go, ‘Right, we’re going to match Chelsea and make the pitch as big as we possibly can and go all-out attack against them’ because, at the end of the day, they’ve got better players than we have. So, we have to come up with something, which we did a couple of times last season, to see what we can do against them, which is always difficult.

“We don’t have to rip anything up at all - we just have to play better. It’s as simple as that. No matter what formation and how you set up, you have to have a fundamental thing and get hold of the ball and pass it to each other when you’ve got it. At Southampton, we didn’t do enough.”

At least Bruce can see a light at the end of the tunnel with regard to Newcastle’s injury situation. Callum Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie all have a chance of being available to face Chelsea, with their recovery from injury providing a significant boost.

The trio have been struggling in the last fortnight, with Wilson having injured his hamstring in the Southampton game and both Shelvey and Ritchie having been forced to sit out the trip to St Mary’s.

However, all three have been involved in training in the last couple of days, and while Ryan Fraser will not be available for today’s game, Wilson, Shelvey and Ritchie are all in contention to make the squad.

“Ryan won’t make it unfortunately,” said Bruce. “But Callum has got a chance. Obviously, we’re going to make sure that if there’s any risk whatsoever, then he won’t play. But he has trained the last two days and was very comfortable.

“We’ll see how he is, but he wants to play. We just need to make sure that if there’s any risk, we make sure he’s 100 per cent right. The big problem for us all is the injuries, but thankfully we’re getting a few back.

“It might be a little bit early for Jonjo, but he’s trained. Matt Ritchie is another one who has trained for two or three days, so that’s good news for us all. They’re in and around the group again, and hopefully available for selection.”

Paul Dummett remains sidelined, having suffered a hamstring injury during the international break. The defender has not played a first-team game since January, but his latest setback does not look as serious as was initially feared, even though it will rule him out of this weekend.

“Paul’s one of those people who’s really suffered from not having a pre-season,” said Bruce. “He’s still not 100 per cent right, we’ve got to be a bit more patient, but we’re quietly confident that he’ll be okay.”

Newcastle (probable, 3-4-3): Darlow; Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez; Murphy, Hayden, S Longstaff, Lewis; Saint-Maximin, Wilson, Joelinton.