Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has suggested that the Potters could be handed a major boost when they return from the international break with four key players set to return to action.
The Potters have been enduring a difficult spell with injuries and they were hit with the latest blows to Steven Fletcher and Tashan Oakley-Boothe in midweek, which meant that both players missed out on the 1-0 win at home to Derby County on Saturday. Despite those absentees, Stoke still headed into the break on the back of an important win.
There have also been injury issues to the likes of James McClean, who has been out with a foot injury since the 3-0 win against Luton Town last month, Jordan Cousins who has been out of action since the 2-1 defeat away at Brentford, and also Sam Clucas, who has been out of action since having surgery on a hernia injury last month. While Oakley-Boothe is also now on the sidelines.
However, speaking to Stoke’s official club website, O’Neill revealed that all four of those players could now come back into contention for selection when the Potters return to action after the international break. While he also insisted the break comes at a good time with the squad needing a rest after playing a large group of games over the last few weeks.
He said: “We need the rest to be honest, although we’ve got a number of lads away with their countries.
“The likes of John (Obi Mikel), Chessie (James Chester) and Fletch (Steven Fletcher) in particular need the rest.
“We’ll have a nice little recovery week this week and we’ve got a bounce game arranged, ironically, against Derby on Thursday for some of the younger players and some of those who haven’t played too much and then we’ll be ready to go against Bristol City.
“I’m hoping that a few of the lads who have been out just recently – the likes of Sam Clucas, James McClean, Jordan Cousins and Tashan Oakley-Boothe – will be available again after the break.”
This is a major boost for the Potters and it is starting to look like O’Neill could be getting the squad back towards full health again after a very rocky spell on the injury front. Stoke have been having to get through a difficult period of fixtures with a number of important players on the sidelines and that will have been taking its toll on the rest of the team.
The likes of McClean and Clucas are vital players towards the Potters’ attack and both have been missed in their absences and when they return should provide more attacking creativity. While having Cousins and Oakley-Boothe back available would boost the options that O’Neill has to freshen things up in the middle of the park.
It is going to be an important last few games of the season for Stoke, who will be needing to continue to show signs of progression heading into next term. Therefore having as many players ready and eager to impress as possible will only help them try and have a real strong finish to a difficult campaign.