Michael O'Neill continues to do a fine job in The Potteries with Stoke City well in the Play-Off hunt heading into the final quarter of the season.
Having saved them from relegation last term, despite inheriting a side that took just eight points from their first 15 games, City have taken big strides forward this campaign, heading into tomorrow's game in tenth, just four points off the top six.
That being said, it has been a very lean 2021 for O'Neill's side; last week's back-to-back home wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town are their only wins in any competitions since mid-December. A Carabao Cup Fifth Round exit to Tottenham Hotspur and an Emirates FA Cup Third Round defeat to Leicester City went alongside six points from nine winless games to begin the New Year.
Stoke have only netted more than once in two league games since November but have only conceded 17 times in that same 19 game period, seven of those goals against coming in two games against Norwich City and Rotherham United.
The Potters have the sixth best away defence in the Championship, conceding 16, and have lost just four of their 16 away games this term, drawing eight of the remaining 12.
Nick Powell (above) has ten league goals to his name with Steven Fletcher on eight but no other player, aside from the injured Tyrese Campbell, has found the net more than twice this term.
There's good news on the injury front as Ivan Toney and Emiliano Marcondes both featured off the bench on Wednesday night, as did Josh Dasilva. Christian Norgaard (ankle) and Marcus Forss (concussion) are both very close to returning while Pontus Jansson (ankle) is targeting a return around the next international break. Rico Henry (hamstring), Shandon Baptiste (knee), Luka Racic (back) and Charlie Goode (illness) are the longer-term absentees.
Stoke have issues up front ahead of today's game with Steven Fletcher limping off in midweek with a groin injury. Tyrese Campbell (knee) is already out for the season while James McClean was pictured in an air boot having picked up an injury in training on Tuesday. Sam Clucas also missed Wednesday's game while Rabbi Matondo remains a week or so away. Morgan Fox (hamstring) and Nathan Collins (foot) will also play no part tomorrow as will Ryan Shawcross whose 14-year association with The Potters ended last Friday when he left to join MLS side Inter Miami.
Michael O’Neill made more than 450 appearances, scoring 72 goals, in a playing career that saw spells at 12 clubs in four countries. He played in the English top flight for Newcastle United and Coventry, won the Football League Trophy with Wigan Athletic in 1999, and did a domestic treble at Glentoran in 2003. He also earned 31 caps for his nation, scoring four goals, before retiring in 2005.
He then moved into management with Brechin City before a hugely successful spell at Shamrock Rovers. In 2011, he made history by being the first League of Ireland manager to guide his side to the group stages of a European competition. His impressive record caught the eye of the Northern Ireland national team and he took charge later that year. He guided the nation to its first ever European Championship in 2016, eventually bowing out to Wales in the Last 16. Following his appointment at Stoke, O’Neill intended to continue with Northern Ireland for the remainder of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying. However, the postponement of Euro 2020 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic led to his resignation as Northern Ireland boss in April 2020.
🆚 Pete Smith from Stoke-on-Trent Live previews The Potters
⚖ John Brooks will be the man in charge this afternoon
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