The international break looks to have come at an ideal time for Bristol City, giving Nigel Pearson more time to work with his squad and allowing their injured players to recover.
The Robins 2-0 defeat to Rotherham United in their last Championship game highlighted the size of the task facing Pearson at Ashton Gate.
The visit of Stoke City on Good Friday is not likely to be any simpler a test for the Bs3 outfit, with Michael O’Neill’s side three points above them in the table.
City will have had a lot of extra time to prepare for the game against the Potters and with that in mind, we’ve outlined are the dilemmas facing Pearson ahead of Good Friday…
Which of the returning players to include from the start
City’s injury problems this term are certainly no secret but we’ve seen a number of players return to action under Pearson and the international break may mean he has even more available for the Stoke game.
That said, the Robins boss has been adamant that the club would not rush anyone back too soon and that stance is likely to be tested on Friday.
With two games over the Easter weekend and a response needed after defeat to the Millers, Pearson may feel that a bit of rotation is necessary so it’ll be interesting to see if any of City’s missing men return.
There’s also the question of Danny Simpson, who signed last week but has been a free agent since leaving Huddersfield Town at the end of last season so may not be match fit.
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Who to use in midfield
Liam Walsh was handed his first start of the season against Rotherham, while Callum O’Dowda was also back in the XI but after a dismal display against the Millers, the City boss faces a dilemma over how to set up his midfield against Stoke.
He isn’t short of options with Henri Lansbury, Han-Noah Massengo, Adam Nagy, Tyreeq Bakinson, Zak Vyner, and Kasey Palmer among the other players that have been used in the centre of the park this term.
The Walsh, Massengo, Palmer trio wasn’t hugely convincing against Rotherham, which suggests Pearson may need to move away from it if his side are to get a result against Stoke but who to include instead and how to set them up are key decisions ahead of Friday’s game.
Whether to persist with Famara Diedhiou
City’s 2019/20 top-scorer and player of the season has looked off the boil in recent months.
Famara Diedhiou has been one of the players that has seemed least affected by Pearson’s arrival but the new manager has continued to use him as the Robins’ mains striker.
Diedhiou has failed to find the net once in the new manager’s tenure and has mustered just five shots, so pulling him out of the starting XI must be something that the 57-year-old is weighing up.
Chris Martin and Andi Weimann are both injured but in Nahki Wells and Antoine Semenyo, Pearson does have other striking options.