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Bristol City have started the season well after picking up 11 points from their opening six games.
Lee Johnson will be happy with that points tally so far as it leaves the Robins sitting in fifth place in the league, and on track for a play-off push.
However, injuries are starting to mount, and one crucial player has been ruled out for six weeks after tearing his hamstring. Tomas Kalas is the man who needs replacing, and this is proving to be a tough choice and decision for Johnson to make as his side prepare to take on Stoke City this weekend.
The Robins signed the central defender from Chelsea in what was a club-record fee after he spent last campaign on loan at the club. A four-year contract was handed out which highlighted the Robins’ clear Premier League ambitions that they have in the near future.
Although, for the Czech Republic international, it’s been a poor start to his second stint at Bristol City. Not necessarily in his performances, but more the fact that he has got injured so early in the season, it’s a real blow for Johnson ahead of some crucial September and October fixtures.
The Robins travel to lowly Stoke City on Saturday, with only a win in mind for Johnson’s side. They’ll have to do it with a makeshift defence, with left-back Jay Dasilva facing up to five months on the sideline with a stress fracture in his lower leg.
Before the international break, Johnson decided to opt for young Taylor Moore to replace the injured Kalas against Middlesbrough whilst Tommy Rowe went in at left-back.
Centre-back Moore didn’t have the best of games and found himself physically beaten by the impressive Britt Assombalonga on several occasions before scoring an unfortunate own goal.
There is potential for Wales international, Ashley Williams, to come into the side. Johnson signed the experienced centre-back, probably as someone to help the youngsters and be a leader in the dressing room, but due to the injuries being picked up, he might now play a crucial role in the Robins’ season.
Williams is yet to make a first-team appearance for Bristol City since his signature but it would be fitting if he were to make his debut at former club, Stoke City, on Saturday.
Johnson has built a very good squad, and one that can really have a good go at challenging at the top end of the league this season. He must find a way to replace the injured players and especially Kalas if he is to ensure that results don’t drop off in the coming months.