Fleetwood Town will look to give their hopes of League One promotion a fresh boost on Tuesday night, when they travel to Fratton Park to face Portsmouth.
Following their goalless draw with local rivals Blackpool on Saturday afternoon, Fleetwood go into the game seventh in the third-tier table, only behind their hosts in sixth place on goal difference, and with a three-point deficit to the automatic promotion places.
Although they may have beaten Portsmouth 1-0 at Highbury just a few weeks ago, Joey Barton’s side will be under no illusions as to the challenge they face in midweek, with Portsmouth unbeaten in 17 league games on home turf this season.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at the starting lineup Barton could name to give his Fleetwood side the best possible chance of claiming all three points when they make the long trip south this week.
Having employed a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the season so far – including in that recent win over Portsmouth – we imagine it will be that system that Barton employs again at Fratton Park.
In goal, Alex Cairns ought to continue between the posts, having once again nailed down that position for the Cod Army with some impressive performances in recent weeks.
Ahead of him, having established the foundations of a solid back four during their run together over the past few weeks, keeping a clean sheet in that win over Pompey, Lewie Coyle, Harry Souttar, Lewis Gibson and Danny Andrew all look to be in a strong position to make up the Fleetwood defence once more at Fratton Park.
One change Barton could be tempted to make is in midfield, where he may elect to hand a rest to 36-year-old Glenn Whelan, who has played every minute of all ten games Fleetwood have played since his arrival at the club back at the end of January.
If that does happen, then one option toBarton could take to accommodate that alteration would be to drop Barrie McKay into a slightly deeper midfield role alongside Callum Connolly and Paul Coutts in the centre of the park.
That would then allow Ched Evans – who has nine league goals this season, second only to Paddy Madden’s 15 – to come into the side alongside Madden, giving Fleetwood plenty of attacking threat for such a crucial game, with Wes Burns once again completing a dangerous-looking front three for the trip to Fratton Park.