Stoke City will be looking to end their seven-game winless run in the Championship when they host Reading tomorrow.
With the Royals flying high and challenging for automatic promotion, it’s going to be a tough task for the Potters, but boss Michael O’Neill will have confidence that his players can get back on track.
The Staffordshire outfit remain in the promotion hunt themselves, as they’re 10th in the table, and just four points away from the play-off places.
However, O’Neill does have some big issues ahead of him, and here we look at TWO dilemmas facing him right now…
Searching for clean sheets
The former Northern Irish boss has been known for building teams that are defensively solid, and hard to play against.
For whatever reason, Stoke have not been that in the past few weeks. They have not kept a clean sheet since Boxing Day, and have conceded seven goals in their past four outings.
Clearly, that’s not acceptable, and it needs to change. And, there are a few solutions to solving this issue that the boss will have been mulling over.
The most obvious one is changing the formation back to a back three. Bringing in the extra centre-back does cost the Potters going forward, but it’s something the players have played regularly and will tighten them up.
A back to basics approach may not be pretty, but it’s all about the results for the team right now, and this could help.
Alternatively, changes in personnel may be the way to go. Danny Batth hasn’t always convinced, but he is a strong presence and a change may give the squad a reminder that it’s a fight to get into the XI.
Whether to start Rabbi Matondo
Bringing in the Wales international on loan from Schalke in the January window was a real coup for O’Neill, but the 20-year-old was an unused sub last time out, and featured for 14 minutes prior to that.
However, with his pace, skill and unpredictability, Matondo will add a lot to the team, and O’Neill needs to get the best out of him.
Whilst the clean sheets have been an issue, Stoke have failed to score more than once in 15 of their last 16 games. They can be easy to defend against, but Matondo would change that.
So, O’Neill needs to decide where to play the youngster. Can he fit in if the side play a back three? Does he need to be in a 4-3-3? It will be interesting to see what happens, but Matondo needs to start.