5 things to look out for in Saudi Arabia’s World Cup Qualifier against China in Sharjah

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DUBAI: Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has revealed it’s not exactly been all work, no play while away in the UAE.

The Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex plays host to the Premier League outfit until Friday, after Howe’s players landed in Dubai last weekend.

And while Howe has put his players through their paces under the Middle Eastern sun, he has also factored in the heavy schedule Newcastle have endured in recent weeks.

“It’s gone well,” he said of the camp so far. “Early on the aim was to give the players some down-time.”

“There’s been a really intense period of games, a lot of away games as well, so we decided to give them some free time to unwind and enjoy the sun for a couple of days,” said Howe. “And then get back to work and start our preparations for our next games.”

“We are pleased with how that has gone.”

The world-renowned Dubai complex most recently welcomed Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, while the likes of Manchester United and Celtic have used it in recent years, along with sporting stars such as Olympic Team GB gold medalist Greg Rutherford and former world tennis No.1 Novak Djokovic.

Howe is no stranger to the complex, having previously visited with former club Bournemouth — and he reiterated exactly why he is a frequent flyer to the Gulf.

“We’d used the facilities a number of times historically and for me, it’s one of the best training arenas in the world,” he said.

“I think it’s first-class facilities.

“First of all, a first-class pitch, but the facilities around the pitch are second-to-none.

“The gym, we took the boys into the altitude chamber today, which they really enjoyed,” said Howe. “Swimming pool, hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy chambers, we utilized everything we could to help the players physically.”

The coach said that the players had enjoyed their stay so far.

“I think it’s just nice to expose the players to that,” Howe said. “When you really want to push the players physically, you need to have the highest level of recovery equipment to utilize and I think we have that here.”

Meanwhile, one player who did not expect to be traveling to the Middle East this international break was Ryan Fraser.

In the autumn, the in-form Newcastle winger reported himself injured to Scotland boss Steve Clarke, and then just days later was pictured in full training upon the arrival of new Magpies boss Howe.

The incident drew widespread criticism from pundits and fans alike north of the border, and while many expected it to be water under the bridge, former Newcastle caretaker Clarke left Fraser out of the squad to face Poland on Thursday.

Jumping to the player’s defense, Howe explained: “He’s very passionate about his country, he always has been. He loves his country and even when he was with the junior age groups he loved going away and that hasn’t changed.

“He wants to do well in every aspect for his club and country and I’m disappointed for him, of course, but I think Ryan is in a good place because he’s here, he’s in a good place and playing well.

“He had a slight tight hamstring before Chelsea so we didn’t want to risk him in that game but I’m very, very pleased with his recent performances and I know if he continues with the consistency of what he’s delivering then he’ll force his way into that squad.”

Howe revealed he has spoken with Clarke following the refusal to recall Fraser — and he hopes that it will only be a matter of time before the player is back in the Scotland setup.

“I’ve spoken with Steve (Clarke) and I’ve got a good relationship with him and I know how highly he rates Ryan so I’m sure that situation will come to a positive conclusion,” he said.

“The only thing I’ll say on that is that it will be dependent on how Ryan performs, that will be the biggest factor in whether things change.”

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