(Reuters) - Newcastle United find themselves in a "bad situation" after Tuesday's League Cup quarter-final exit at Championship (second-tier) side Brentford and must bounce back in their tough festive fixtures, manager Steve Bruce said on Thursday.
Newcastle, 12th in the Premier League, travel to Manchester City on Saturday before hosting title rivals Liverpool and Leicester City in quick succession.
"You're in a bad situation, so now it's - how do you try to work your way out of it," Bruce told reporters. "You need to get a response. It's sometimes the most difficult part but you have to lift them up and get ready for it.
"It's a difficult challenge, we're playing one of the best teams in the world but we've got to make sure that we get over the disappointment of the other night, roll our sleeves up and show what we're made of.
"This league is unforgiving, it's very, very difficult at times, so you have to get ready for the challenge."
Centre back Federico Fernandez returns to the squad after recovering from COVID-19 but Bruce said the Argentine was "very fatigued" with muscle soreness.
"I don't think I've worked with a better pro than Fede, so for him to have the effects just goes to show that it affects different people in different ways," Bruce said.
"I hope I have at least him back because at centre back we've been a little bit short."
Bruce said captain Jamaal Lascelles and winger Allan Saint-Maximin were still not fit after contracting coronavirus and he could not provide a definite timeframe on their return.
"They're not ready to return until the doctors tell us. Everybody's different with the symptoms," Bruce added.
"(It will) probably be Jamaal before Allan, but we hope that we can see an improvement in both of them and they can join the squad in the next week, two weeks, maybe."
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)