2 Stoke City dilemmas facing Michael O’Neill ahead of Blackburn Rovers match today | OneFootball
2 Stoke City dilemmas facing Michael O’Neill ahead of Blackburn Rovers match today
Football League World
Stoke City will be looking to further boost their Championship play-off hopes on Saturday afternoon, when they host Blackburn Rovers at the Bet365 Stadium.
The Potters go into the game sixth in the second-tier standings, and will be looking to bounce back after their 1-0 defeat at Bristol City on Wednesday night.
However, Blackburn go into the game seventh in the table, just one point behind Stoke, following their 4-0 thrashing of Peterborough in midweek.
This therefore, looks unlikely to be an easy game for Stoke, and with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at two dilemmas facing manager Michael O’Neill ahead of this game, right here.
Can they cope with a long list of absences?
When they take on Blackburn on Saturday, Stoke will be doing so without a number of senior first-team players.
Centre back Harry Souttar and goalkeeper Joe Bursik are long-term absentees, while attackers Nick Powell and Abdallah Sima, and midfield duo Sam Clucas and Jordan Thompson all remain unavailable due to fitness issues of their own.
Meanwhile, Joe Allen is now suspended after his sending off at Bristol City, with Sam Surridge also still seeing out a ban following his red card against Peterborough last weekend. As a result, there is plenty of influence and experience Stoke will be missing here, and it will be intriguing to see how they cope with that.
Can they keep Ben Brereton quiet?
If Stoke are to keep Blackburn out on Saturday, then one player they are surely going to have shut out of this game, is Ben Brereton.
Following his brace in that win over Peterborough, the Chilean international now has 12 goals in his last 11 games for Rovers, and 16 in the league in total this season, just under half of his side’s entire Championship tally (33).
Preventing Brereton from getting a sniff at goal will therefore be crucial to Stoke claiming a win here, and will be a big test of their defence in the absence of the influential Souttar.