What team is currently both six games unbeaten and has lost their past two?
Progress in the cup competitions may not be seen as important, but it has taken at least a small amount of the wind out of our sails. While the FA Cup loss to Walsall was a game we might have won on another day, naming a reserve side against Cheltenham in midweek to sabotage our hopes of progress in the Checkatrade Trophy puts a little bit of pressure on Mark Robins to win this game to justify that call.
Expect the team selection for this game to be much closer to the most recent league game against Accrington Stanley than it was for even the FA Cup tie against Walsall. The key difference between this line-up being the return to fitness of Tom Bayliss, who adds a completely different dimension to the midfield alongside Michael Doyle than the underwhelming Abu Ogogo has done thus far.
In addition, Jack Grimmer’s availability at right-back adds further attacking thrust to the side, in place of Jordon Thompson, a youngster doing his best while being played out of position. The Scot, in theory, has a chance to nail down a starting place ahead of Dujon Sterling – presuming there isn’t a clause in Sterling’s loan contract that dictates he plays when fit.
As for the biggest call Robins will have to make, restoring Conor Chaplin to the starting line-up is the closest to contentious. The forward is entering a key couple of months in his burgeoning Coventry City career where he needs to start delivering on the promise he has shown thus far. With the likely alternatives in that link role between midfield and attack being a Jordan Shipley who has underwhelmed in recent appearances, and a Jodi Jones not quite up to speed yet after a big injury, Chaplin is likely to be given every chance to play himself into form.
Our most recent meeting with Burton Albion represented a turning-point in Tony Mowbray’s only full season in charge of the club. A Sky Blues side featuring Adam Armstrong, James Maddison, Jacob Murphy, Joe Cole, Ruben Lameiras, Romain Vincelot, and John Fleck should have been no match for a solid and obdurate Burton side. Instead, the Brewers played the perfect game of rope-a-dope football at the Ricoh Arena, withstaining plenty of first-half pressure as our talented little forwards bobbed and weaved into a sea of yellow and black, before we were stung on our glass jaw (a.k.a. Peter Ramage) with second-half goals from Calum Butcher and Stuart Beavon.
Manager – Nigel Clough
A club legend across two managerial spells with the Brewers, first leading them from the depths of Non-League into the promised land of the Football League, then returning to steer them to promotion into the second-tier and keep them up for more than a season. Clough seems to relish managing less-fancied sides, with his teams tending to do well in cup competitions, which is partially why Burton have struggled to live up to expectations this season back in the third-tier.
However, that is a slightly harsh generalisation of Burton this season, who have been faced with a consistent slew of injuries all over the pitch. Clough has had to patch his side up with free transfers and players playing out of position, which has engendered a level of inconsistency in both team selections and performances.
Ones To Watch
Burton’s midfield trio of Jamie Allen, Scott Fraser, and Stephen Quinn have the ability to overwhelm us in the centre of the park, which could hand the Brewers control of the game. Allen, sitting at the base of midfield, is an industrious operator who can also get on the ball and play. The veteran Quinn still has the energy he was once famed for during his time at Sheffield United and offers a level of nous that can make Burton niggly to play against if they go in front. Fraser meanwhile is a physically imposing figure who likes to drive forward with the ball into the penalty area.
Up front, the skill of Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh has the capability to open the game up in wide areas, while Devante Cole’s pace and power often gets him into good goalscoring positions, even if his finishing can lacks precision at times. There is a possibility that former Sky Blue Marvin Sordell could feature in this game, although he is one of several Burton players who have missed recent games due to injury.
Areas To Exploit
With Burton’s squad for this game decimated by injuries, as well as the international call-up of star striker Liam Boyce, they are looking particularly short on numbers in defence. It is likely that Nigel Clough will have to name winger Lucas Akins at centre-back alongside the right-back John Brayford, with the midfielder Ben Fox having to fill in at right-back.
This clearly makes it imperative that we test Burton’s defence as often as we can, either through going direct or trying to exploit the gaps left between full-back and centre-back. It’s likely that Burton will try and press us high to avoid the pressure on their defence – Nigel Clough has already marked out Michael Doyle as a key player that they’ll look to target – but if we can break the press, there should be gaps to exploit.