Michael O’Neill is dealing with an injury list too long again as Stoke City face one of their biggest challenges of the season.
Stoke head to promotion-chasing Brentford having seen Steven Fletcher and Sam Clucas suffer groin injuries this week, James McClean ruled out with a foot problem, Rabbi Matondo not back in training until next week and Morgan Fox (hamstring), Nathan Collins (foot) and Tyrese Campbell (knee) stuck in the treatment room.
Mike Pejic says in this week’s column: “There are a couple of options in attack if Fletcher isn’t fit. I wouldn’t be surprised if we went 3-4-3 and used Nick Powell in the middle, sitting just off the front as Pep Guardiola plays his striker.
“He could play Powell on the left with Vokes central, as worked at Aston Villa a lot earlier this season.
“The key is to have options wide and that formation gives that with full-backs and wingers ahead of them. Out of possession it can become a 5-4-1.
“Taking a longer view, we knew even on the day that Fletcher signed that we also need a younger version of the same kind of player, ready to step in and challenge for his place when they get a chance rather than demand a change in formation.
“There is a chance to take a look at Christian Norton or Ethon Varian and see if they are ready to swim. You need competition not just in terms of winning games but within the club of being number one in different positions. O’Neill is in a lucky position in modern football that he has a board that will give him time to let players find their feet if the ship keeps going in the right direction.”
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