ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN will make an eagerly-awaited return to Newcastle’s matchday squad at Aston Villa tomorrow night, with Steve Bruce admitting the Frenchman is integral to his side’s preferred “counter-attacking style”.

Saint-Maximin has been absent since late November after a series of adverse reactions to a coronavirus infection prevented him from returning to training.

The forward returned to his native France to recuperate, and only returned to full training at the end of last week. He will not be involved in tomorrow’s starting line-up at Villa Park, but will be named among the substitutes with Bruce confident he is ready to be called upon if required.

“The good news for everybody is that Saint-Maximin is in the squad,” said the Newcastle boss. “He’s come through all week and trained well.

"He looks to be in decent shape, which is important. There’s no doubt at this particular moment in time that that will give everybody a huge lift because we know how important he is, especially in the forward area. He’s the player that we look to for a bit of creativity.

“We have monitored everything we can this week to see where he is in terms of his fitness, and it’s fair to say his fitness levels are very, very good, which is good news.

"Of course, we’ve got to get the balance right. I wouldn’t expect him to be starting (at Villa), but he’ll be in and among the squad and there if he’s needed.”