Stoke City will be hoping that they can get off to the right sort of start to the new Championship season when they take on Reading at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday.
The Potters lacked enough of a threat in the final third and consistency in their performances to mount a promotion push last term.
However, their opponents on Saturday were much more consistent and spent the entire campaign in and around the top-six before finishing in 7th position.
During the off-season, O’Neill has managed to bring in talented defender Ben Wilmot to replace Nathan Collins for a fraction of the fee that they sold the defender to Burnley for. While both Mario Vrancic and Jack Bonham have also arrived to provide quality and competition for places.
There has also been plenty of movement out of the door at Stoke this summer, with the Potters having been successful in moving on a host of players.
O’Neill’s side have delivered some decent performances in pre-season and they will be confident that they can get off to a winning start against Reading. However, there are still one or two dilemmas facing the Stoke boss in terms of his starting line-up for the fixture.
Here then, we take a look at TWO of the biggest team dilemmas that O’Neill faces ahead of their clash with Reading…
Whether to bring Harry Souttar straight back into the fold
One major dilemma that O’Neill is faced with ahead of the Potters’ meeting with Reading is whether or not he should bring Harry Souttar straight back into the back three.
The defender has not been able to play for the Potters during their pre-season due to his international commitments with Australia at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
However, after playing a key role for his nation at the Games, he is now heading back to the Potters with Australia having been knocked out of the tournament.
Souttar will still have that real match fitness that you need to head into the start of a new campaign, but O’Neill will have to determine whether or not he needs a rest to recover from his involvement for Australia at the Olympics and also the traveling he would have been doing.
Stoke have plenty of options to choose from if Souttar is not ready to start against Reading. The likes of Danny Fox and James Chester could come into the back three in his position if required.
However, if he is fully fit and ready then surely Souttar should just be playing for the Potters because he is one of their most crucial performers.
Quiz: What was the score the last time Stoke City played at each of these 24 stadiums?
Who to start in the left-wing-back position
O’Neill is facing another major dilemma in terms of who he should select to start for the Potters in the left-wing-back position against Reading on Saturday.
In the Potters’ final pre-season fixture against Wolves Josh Tymon was a somewhat surprise inclusion in the starting line-up, with Fox having started in the left-centre-back position.
However, that by no means guarantees that O’Neill will decide to stick with him for the opening game of the campaign against Reading.
Should Souttar return, as previously alluded to, then that would free up Fox to come back in contention for that left-wing-back role.
While Alfie Doughty has been handed minutes in that position by O’Neill during the Potters’ pre-season this summer.
Doughty could well be able to play a more adventurous attacking role for the Potters down their left-hand side that the other options within their squad. However, both Fox and Tymon might be regarded as safer options in terms of defensive capabilities.