Preview: Blackpool

Coventry City’s winning and clean sheet streak came to an end on Tuesday night against Rotherham United. An opportunity to get out of the relegation zone has passed the Sky Blues by, but a win in this upcoming game against Blackpool will achieve that important landmark just the same. As frustrating as midweek was, this team has made an incredible amount of progress in a short time and remains in a much healthier position than a month ago.

A home game against a Blackpool side that have handed out a few bloody noses to bigger teams this season should not be considered a straightforward contest for Coventry City. Despite a couple of wins at the CBS Arena recently, the Sky Blues’ home form over the past year remains a concern. If this team is to get out of danger before the World Cup, solidifying results on home turf will be crucial, this is one of those games that could decide which direction that form heads in.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Wilson; Rose, McFadzean, Panzo; Eccles, Sheaf, Hamer, Bidwell; Allen; Palmer, Gyokeres.

Injuries to Martyn Waghorn and Fankaty Dabo on Tuesday night limits Mark Robins’ ability to make changes to the team for this game, as well the next few. The blows highlight how the manager has to be careful not to push players beyond their limits during this brutal run of fixtures, however, that will only get more difficult to do the more squad options he loses.

In attack, it probably remains too soon to start Callum O’Hare, which means that Kasey Palmer, more or less, has to start this game. The attacking midfielder has effectively played as a striker over the past two games and with Matt Godden, Tyler Walker and Martyn Waghorn all absent currently, it is all the more reason for Palmer to start. However, he is one of several players whose fitness needs to managed carefully, which may provide the opportunity for involvement at some point for Fabio Tavares.

Josh Eccles appears to be the second-choice at right wing-back at the moment and seems likely to take Fankaty Dabo’s place in the side, that is unless the knock he appeared to pick up on Tuesday night forces him out of the reckoning. Fortunately, with Todd Kane, as well as Jack Burroughs, further options at right wing-back, it is pretty much the one position that Coventry City can absorb injury set-backs in right now.

In contrast, the situation at both left wing-back and the heart of central defence is of more concern as both Jake Bidwell and Kyle McFadzean sit precariously on four yellow cards with no direct replacements for them. As for this game, Mark Robins has a decision to make over whether to bring Jonathan Panzo back to the left side of the back three in the hope that he may restore the defensive solidity that was absent on Tuesday night, or to persist with Callum Doyle, who brings more to the team in possession. It is a call that rests on just how much respect the manager will pay Blackpool.

Last Time We Met

It was one of several frustrating home games over the second half of last season that put paid to Coventry City’s top six hopes when the Sky Blues were last in action against Blackpool. Off the back of a manic run of fixtures, Coventry started well but ran out of steam mid-way through the first-half and eventually found themselves behind after an excellent cross-field pass by Blackpool’s Josh Bowler allowed Owen Dale to run at a stretched defence and eventually tee up Gary Madine to put the away side ahead.

Fortunately, Coventry City found themselves level at the break, after a long Simon Moore kick allowed Viktor Gyokeres a run at the Seasiders’ defence and finish past the opposing goalkeeper. The second-half saw the Sky Blues become ever more fatigued as Blackpool kept the ball but couldn’t find a way through. However, a late rally nearly won the game for the home side, with Gustavo Hamer mishitting an excellent late chance to secure all three points.

The Opposition

The Manager – Michael Appleton

After a peripatetic start to his managerial career, Michael Appleton has forged a reputation as a smart coach with a knack of getting the best out of young players. That should have made him a sensible appointment for Blackpool over the summer following Neil Critchley’s shock decision to attach himself to the Steven Gerrard sinking ship at Aston Villa as assistant manager. However, Appleton was not only off the back of an underwhelming year in League One at Lincoln City but had previously endured a short-lived and forgettable stint at Bloomfield Road in his wayward early years in football management.

The former Preston North End player has done a good job in his first few months back in charge of Blackpool of winning over his doubters. With a squad that doesn’t necessarily have the right to be away from danger in the Championship, Michael Appleton not only has the Tangerines in a decent position but has produced some memorable performances and attracted some top young players to the club. While the condensed nature of the division means that impressive individual results may only provide a transient feeling of progress, Appleton looks to be doing good things at Blackpool thus far.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (4-3-3): Maxwell; Connolly, Ekpiteta, Thorniley, Husband; Bridcutt, Dougall, Patno; Hamilton, Yates, Madine.

Blackpool have the division’s most in-form striker at the moment, in Jerry Yates. A rapid forward who can be very effective coming in from wide positions, Yates is on a hot streak at the moment of six goals in four games – all of which came as braces – and could really exploit the spaces behind and between the wide centre-backs if Coventry City look to push up in this game.

The other stand-out performer for Blackpool at the moment is Arsenal loanee, Charlie Patino. Billed as one of the crown jewels of the London side’s academy at the moment, Patino is a really classy operator in central midfield. Physically slight, it is Patino’s reading of the game and speed of thought on the ball that is really coming to the fore at the moment. The kind of player who can glide through games without appearing to break a sweat, Patino could run the show here if he gets time on the ball.

One of the most notable things about this Blackpool squad at the moment is the variety of wide attacking options that Michael Appleton has to choose form. The aforementioned Jerry Yates is in excellent form at the moment in one of those slots in the side, with the manager able to choose from the rapid CJ Hamilton and Ian Poveda, and the more technical Sonny Carey and Theo Corbeanu either in support on the other side or to change things up over the course of the game. It is a luxury of choice that Mark Robins could only dream of right now and makes Blackpool a big threat later on as they’ll be able to inject themselves with an adrenaline shot of energy from the bench.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

While this is a home game against a bottom-half side, Blackpool are an attack-minded team that will look to take the game to Coventry City. Rotherham United showed in the early stages on Tuesday night that such a style can be unsettling for this team right now as Mark Robins looks to find the balance between defence and his newfound options in attack. A key decision the manager faces is whether to persist with the more attack-minded game-plan from midweek or revert to a plan of targeting the clean sheet as an absolute priority.

Both teams are quite similar in that they have some very good attacking players and less good defenders, which could make for an entertaining contest if Mark Robins wants to make it so. Blackpool’s back-line is rather slow and error-prone, which could nudge the Coventry City manager in the direction of a more defensive, counter-attacking game-plan, but that would risk Blackpool taking control of proceedings through Charlie Patino, who could find the passes through the Sky Blues’ back-line that Daniel Barlaser did in mid-week. Shutting down the Arsenal loanee is likely to be a key concern for Coventry in this game.

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