Liam Lawrence says skipper Ryan Shawcross probably has a strong case to start for Stoke at Reading on Saturday.
Shawcross – who last played on December 29 – has seemingly shaken off the niggly injuries dogging him earlier this year after enjoying the enforced breathing space from the coronavirus lockdown.
And Lawrence says: “If he’s fit, which he seems to be, then Ryan would certainly be a viable option because of his pedigree and experience.
“It looks like two from him, Danny Batth and James Chester, or three from them and Bruno Martins Indi if he was to play three centre halves.
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“Joe Allen is going to be a big miss in midfield because he’s one who’s played a big part in Stoke’s turn around.
“But Sam Clucas has also been one of the team’s brighter lights this season and if he can lead by example, which I’m sure he can, he has a big role to play in Joe’s absence.”
Tyrese Campbell will hope to spearhead Stoke’s attack at Reading and Lawrence observes: “He’s had to bide his time, but before lockdown he was scoring important goals, his hold up play was better and his decision-making on when to make runs had improved, so he must be a frontrunner to start.
“But we haven’t seen the players for three months. It’s been like having a pre-season, but without the friendlies for press and fans to take a look before the season begins proper.
“So it’s very much on what the manager and his staff have seen behind closed doors.”
Lawrence will be summarising on the game for BBC Radio Stoke, but from his home, and he admits: “It won’t be easy because there will be something like a 30-second delay from the commentary in the stadium to me seeing the pictures on stream, but I’m sure we’ll find a way.”