Sam Clucas and James McClean are doubts for Stoke City heading to Barnsley after pulling out of training this morning.
The midfield duo both came off the bench to help Stoke beat Luton on Saturday but they join Rabbi Matondo in the treatment room, as well as Morgan Fox, Nathan Collins and Tyrese Campbell.
Michael O’Neill said: “Obviously Morgan Fox and Nathan Collins are out and we have doubts about James McClean and Sam Clucas, who came out of training today.
“Rabbi is still another week away. He had a small injection and he’s been working with the fitness guys. Hopefully we can drop him back into training at the start of next week but he won’t be fit for this game and probably the weekend either.”
Adam Davies returned to the bench against Luton at the expense of Joe Bursik while Angus Gunn kept the gloves.
Davies has not played since a knee injury in October and was beaten in the return to fitness and race to retake the gloves by Gunn, who had damaged his ankle.
O’Neill said: “You have to be fair to the goalkeepers. Adam lost his place because he got injured and Angus was ahead of him in terms of returning to play when we decided to take young Joe out.
“There is very little between any of the goalkeepers. It’s not a reflection on Joe that we did that but it’s being fair to Adam as well.”
Stoke are in the thick of a busy schedule, with Brentford coming up on Saturday followed by Swansea the following Wednesday.
O’Neill made sweeping changes for the last mid-week game – a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday – after a defeat at Norwich but is expected to be more conservative this time even if he tries to keep his squad fresh.
He said: “You have to get the balance right. Sometimes when you bring players in who haven’t played for weeks it can take them a couple of games to adapt.
“That’s always a dilemma for you as a manager: will the players you bring in if you rotate hit the ground running?
“We have had difficulties with that. We tried to do it earlier in the season at Swansea, protect some players, and it didn’t work for us so it’s getting the balance right.
“Injuries force that and we’ve had injuries in recent weeks again. The squad is smaller than at any point with players going out on loan.
“Players are probably at a point of the season when they’re a little bit more prone or fatigued. There’s been a lot of mid-week games.
“This is where you see character of players in terms of what we can achieve between now and the end of the season.”
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- Barnsley are winless in five league games against Stoke (D3 L2) since a 1-0 win back in February 2007.
- Stoke are looking to win consecutive away league games against Barnsley for the first time since September 1919.
- Barnsley have won seven home league matches this season, as many as they managed last season. They last won more in a Championship season back in 2012-13 (9).
- Since keeping six consecutive away league clean sheets, Stoke have shipped goals in each of their last four on the road, including four in a 4-1 defeat to Norwich last time out, their most in an away Championship game since losing 5-0 to Leeds in July 2020.
- Stoke’s Nick Powell has failed to score in all three of his league starts against Barnsley – in his only substitute appearance, he scored a hat-trick in April 2017 for Wigan, netting his treble in 11-minutes.