TWO of Newcastle United’s most influential performers will return to the fray tomorrow evening, with Martin Dubravka and Jamaal Lascelles both set to be involved in the FA Cup third-round tie at Arsenal.

Dubravka will start at the Emirates Stadium after completing his recovery from a heel injury, while Lascelles is likely to be on the substitutes’ bench as he takes another significant step forward on his return from a Covid-enforced lay-off.

In Dubravka’s absence, Karl Darlow has established himself as Newcastle’s number one goalkeeper, with his latest impressive performance coming in last week’s goalless draw with Liverpool and featuring a Save of the Season contender to deny Mohamed Salah.

Dubravka was Newcastle’s Player of the Season last term, so while the Slovakian faces a battle to reclaim his starting spot, Steve Bruce is simply delighted to be able to call on two of the leading shot-stoppers in the Premier League.

“Martin will play (against Arsenal),” said Bruce. “It’s the ideal one for him, and how fortunate we are in that area. We all understand what he has done in his Newcastle career, and now Karl has grasped that opportunity too. The competition is good, so we welcome back Martin.”

While Dubravka’s problems started in pre-season, Lascelles’ absence has been a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak that forced the closure of Newcastle’s training ground at the start of last month.

Along with Allan Saint-Maximin, who has only recently returned to the North-East after more than a month recuperating in France, Lascelles has been struggling with the debilitating effects of ‘Long Covid’.

The Newcastle skipper has been subjected to a series of stringent post-Covid tests, and while Newcastle’s medical staff were initially concerned at their findings, Lascelles received the green light to return to full training at the start of the week.

Bruce will be understandably keen to take things slowly with the centre-half, but he will be part of the squad that travels to the Emirates and likely to play some part in tomorrow's game.

“Jamaal has trained for the best part of the week,” said the Magpies manager. “We have had the green light with Jamaal, and the big thing now is how he feels. It’s been a long time.”

Saint-Maximin is yet to return to training, but he is back in the North-East and will be gradually eased back into action once his period of quarantine following overseas travel is over and Newcastle’s doctor is satisfied he can handle an increased workload.

“Allan is now back in country and we’re waiting for the doctor to give us the go-ahead,” said Bruce. “They are edging towards it, but Allan and Jamaal have suffered more than anybody.

“With Allan, it’s been something like six weeks where he’s not been able to do anything. That’s another challenge, to get him on the training ground again, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Having been stung by the criticism that accompanied Newcastle’s limp Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat at Brentford, Bruce is adamant he will be taking tomorrow's FA Cup tie seriously.

Nevertheless, there is a good chance 18-year-old striker Elliot Anderson could be handed a debut following his promotion to the senior squad.

“He’s been with us for six to eight weeks now, and we like what we see,” said Bruce. “Who knows? He's involved, so we'll see. He could make his debut.”

Newcastle conducted their first piece of January transfer business on Thursday when Rolando Aarons completed a permanent departure to Huddersfield Town, but while Bruce would like to move on a number of other fringe players, he accepts it will not be an easy process.

“We've got to be patient,” he said. “There's four or five coming out of contract. There's two or three who need to go and get their careers kick-started again. It's been very difficult because people like (Henri) Saivet, (Achraf) Lazaar and Aarons have been available since I walked through the door."