Preview: Hull City

The goals finally flowed for Coventry City in an exhilarating win over Sheffield United at the weekend, but the truer indication of whether this team has turned a corner will be in translating that one win into a sustained run of form. A win in this game would, at the very least, keep the play-offs within touching distance, giving the Sky Blues something to strive for with less than ten games to go.

A home game against a Hull City side with just one win in their past nine games, and with little to play for this season, should be seen as an excellent opportunity to build on that Sheffield United victory. The nature of the Championship is such that Coventry City cannot turn up to this game expecting the win, but this is the type of contest that teams that make the top six will win with little fuss.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Moore; Hyam, Rose, Clarke-Salter; Dabo, Hamer, Sheaf, Maatsen; O'Hare; Gyokeres, Godden.
Possible Line-Up

With both Mark Robins and Adi Viveash missing Saturday’s game due to testing positive for Covid, there is the strong possibility that Coventry City may be missing further staff and players for the same reason ahead of this fixture. With no news on that front, at the time of writing, it can only be assumed that the only Sky Blues absences for this game will be players known to be out with injury.

Even if the first-team has avoided a Covid outbreak, there continues to be a shortage of options to pick a starting XI from, which has been made worse by both Kyle McFadzean and Todd Kane appearing to pick up knocks at the weekend. It means that whoever picks the team for this game (which is highly likely to be Mark Robins, regardless of whether he’ll be on the touch-line), doesn’t a great deal of choice to select from.

In defence, Kyle McFadzean’s possible absence means that it will be a back three of Dominic Hyam and Jake Clarke-Salter either side of Michael Rose. Meanwhile, at wing-back, Fankaty Dabo and Ian Maatsen are the team’s only options.

The main area to change things up is in midfield and attack, however, the performance on Saturday was so impressive that it’s hard to justify doing anything in that area of the pitch. Nonetheless, it’s possible that at least one of Martyn Waghorn or Ben Sheaf could come into team just to freshen things up.

Last Time We Met

Hull City were on a bad run of form back in October when Coventry City, seeking a second away win of the season, travelled up to the MKM Stadium. Taking the lead early through a Matt Godden finish, it was a case of the Sky Blues lacking the composure to kill the game off and Hull City lacking the ability to turn the game around. In nine minutes, the game was effectively over.

The Opposition

The Manager – Shota Arveladze

The former Rangers forward has had a peripatetic managerial career, sweeping from the Netherlands to Uzbekistan, with a spell in Turkey in between. Appointed following the takeover of the club by Turkish medial mogul, Acun Ilicali, Shota Arveladze arrived with Hull City enjoying their best run of form of the campaign but has struggled to get going, with questions starting to be raised as to the merit behind his appointment.

With the club clearly in transition under new ownership, it is hard to gauge whether Shota Arveladze is doing an especially poor job or he is simply a victim of circumstance in his first couple of months in a new league. Survival is, more or less, certain at this stage of the season and there is clearly an ambition from Acun Ilicali to make a big splash in the summer, leaving Hull with a squad of players knowing they have little left to achieve this campaign, with many likely to be replaced in a few months’ time. While Arveladze hasn’t convinced with what has been seen by quite a negative approach, it has been a very awkward situation to walk into.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (3-4-2-1): Ingram; Jones, McLoughlin, Greaves; Longman, Docherty, Smallwood, Fleming; Lewis-Potter, Honeyman; Eaves.
Possible Line-Up

The clear star of this Hull City team is the wide-forward, Keane Lewis-Potter. Emerging from the youth academy at around the same time that Jarrod Bowen, a very similar kind of player, left the club, Lewis-Potter’s combination of skill, off-the-ball movement and eye for goal has provided Hull with the quality to edge a handful of tight games this season, which is likely to keep them in the division.

A less-vaunted key man for Hull City is George Honeyman in midfield. The former Sunderland academy player has been a firm fans’ favourite at Hull over the past two years with his relentless work-rate without the ball, while also being able to chip in with the odd goal. Winger, Ryan Longman, has been another who has impressed this season with his direct running down the flanks.

In defence, Jacob Greaves is another homegrown youngster with a bright future in the game. In a back-line that is short of a leadership figure, the 21 year old has taken up that mantle in the middle of a Championship survival battle. Allying those qualities with an air of grace to his game, keeping Greaves at the club over the long-term would be a serious boon for the new ownership. Greaves’ defensive colleagues, Sean McLoughlin and Alfie Jones are further steady presences at the back for Hull.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

With little room for rotation to keep players fresh, Coventry City will be hoping that players who had looked spent prior to Saturday’s win over Sheffield United can find a second wind as a result of that victory. At full fitness, Viktor Gyokeres, Callum O’Hare and Gustavo Hamer would relish the opportunity to show what they can do against a struggling opponent with little to play for. With the fixture list as congested as it is, similar performance levels to the weekend should not be an expectation.

Onto the specifics of this game, keeping Keane Lewis-Potter quiet will be important for Coventry City in limiting Hull City’s attacking threat. With the significant physical presence of Tom Eaves as Hull’s focal point up front, the danger is that he can drag defenders out of position to provide Lewis-Potter with space to run into. That could be an area where Kyle McFadzean’s absence will be felt, but it may be a case of letting Eaves win headers relatively unchallenged and instead focusing on picking up the second balls.

With Hull City having tended to set up more defensively under Shota Arveladze, this is likely to be a game of Coventry City having a lot of the ball trying to break down an opponent sitting deep. This could be where starting Ben Sheaf over Jamie Allen might make sense, with Sheaf’s quality in possession of more use than Allen’s combative qualities

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