Stoke boss, O’Neill hints at Mikel full return vs Bournemouth

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STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Mikel John Obi of Stoke City and Max Aarons of Norwich City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke City and Norwich City at Bet365 Stadium on November 24, 2020 in Stoke on Trent, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Stoke City Manager, Michael O’Neill will have a positive selection headache heading into Saturday night Championship encounter at home to AFC Bournemouth with the return of former Super Eagles Skipper, John Obi Mikel, and some other first-team players from injuries.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Northern Irishman revealed that both Josh Tymon and Steven Fletcher could return to the squad.

Meanwhile, the gradual comebacks of Joe Allen, John Obi Mikel, and Sam Clucas in recent days could be turned into more permanent roles against the Cherries.

Tommy Smith will also be available for selection after showing no signs of injury following a heavy collision with the advertising boards in Tuesday’s clash with Nottingham Forest.

When asked what the latest injury situation at the Club was, the 51-year-old expressed: “Morgan Fox is still out. Josh Tymon will have a fitness test on Friday.

“John Obi Mikel and Sam Clucas came off the bench on Tuesday so they will come back into contention. It’s just a case of how many minutes and where they are physically in terms of being ready to return.

“We have to be mindful of Joe’s (Allen) situation too. He’s played over 90 minutes over the space of three days so we need to consider that in terms of his return to play.

“There’s no one else back in terms of the longer-term injuries – the two goalkeepers are still unavailable, Lee Gregory is still out, Tyrese (Campbell) is still out.

“Josh is the only one we may or may not have available for Saturday.”

He added: “Fletch did a bit of work on Thursday so we will see how he reacts to that, but we were optimistic he will be available for Saturday.”

The Potters are seventh on the log with 35 points from 22 games and Mikel who was ever-present in the opening 14 games of the season had to miss seven games due to the injury he copped on November 28th, 2020 against Sheffield Wednesday.

Mikel returned to the Stoke City squad on December 29th, 2020 in their 1-1 draw at home to Nottingham Forest. He was introduced in the 68th minute in place of Jordan Thompson.

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