Striking Options for Keane Ahead of Leicester
Friday, 14th Aug 2009 13:01
Boss Roy Keane has to decide whether to give new signing TamÃˇs Priskin or 16-year-old Connor Wickham their first Town league starts, or to stick with Jon Stead as the Bluesâ€™ lone central striker when his side face Leicester in their opening home game of the season on Saturday.
Keane has utilised a 4-3-3 formation so far this season and says heâ€™s happy with that set-up: â€śWeâ€™ve tried a few different things and I want my team to have variation and to be adaptable to 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or whatever it might be. I think with the players I have at the club at the moment, that seems to suit us best.
â€śI would definitely see it as 4-3-3. I suppose if we get beaten people will say itâ€™s 4-5-1 and that itâ€™s boring and defensive, but I see it as 4-3-3.â€ť
Priskin returned from international duty with Hungary without a problem, but will have trained only briefly with his new team-mates after joining the club a week ago and making his debut as a sub at Coventry.
While Keane says he wonâ€™t pick his side until later today, the former Watford man seems likely to be a sub, while the Blues boss is confident that youngster Wickham, who scored twice at Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup, will be able to handle the pressure of playing at first team level: â€śIâ€™ve no worries with the boy getting carried away, itâ€™s maybe the local media getting carried away. Theyâ€™re the ones who need to relax because they all love a story!â€ť
Wickham probably wonâ€™t start on Saturday having looked very tired towards the end of the 120 minutes at the Prostar Stadium and a first league start in Tuesdayâ€™s home game against Crystal Palace looks more likely. That would see Jon Stead keep his place in the middle of the front three against the Foxes, with Jon Walters on the right and Lee Martin on the left.
Pablo CouÃ±ago is still sidelined with his groin injury, but Keane says the Spaniard is making progress: â€śPablo has trained for the last few days, as has Ben Thatcher, but tomorrow is way too early for him.
â€ťI think weâ€™re having a reserve game on Tuesday and hopefully the two of them will be involved, Ben certainly will. Pabloâ€™s trained really well the last few days, whether that will come too soon for him, weâ€™ll decide after the weekend. Those two and David Norris are the only injury concerns at the moment, so it could be worse.â€ť
In midfield, Norris is out for up to four months with the knee problem he suffered at Coventry and Colin Healy, suspended for the game at the Ricoh Arena, looks set to take the holding midfield role after impressing in midweek.
Liam Trotter and Jaime Peters are likely to keep the other central positions, although Alan Quinn will be pushing them for a place after doing well at Shrewsbury. Ed Upson also impressed against the League Two side and Keane says one or two of his fringe players could have pushed themselves into his 18 with their performances on Tuesday.
Argentinian midfielder Luciano Civelli is out until early 2010 after suffering knee ligament damage last season.
At the back, Richard Wright will be in goal and Damien Delaney at left-back, while skipper Gareth McAuley will continue at centre-half against his old club.
Keane is unlikely to field both Alex Bruce and David Wright after they played 120 minutes against Shrewsbury. Bruce may take the right-back role with the ex-Wigan man still on his way back from his hip injury. If thatâ€™s the case, Pim Balkestein will partner McAuley at the heart of the defence.
The Town boss says he expects to come up against a buoyant Leicester side: â€ťWeâ€™re looking forward to it. Their confidence will be sky high after promotion and theyâ€™ve had a couple of good wins in the last few days. That happens with a lot of teams that get promoted â€“ they have that winning mentality.
â€ťWeâ€™re looking forward to the challenge of our first home game. Weâ€™re expecting a very good home crowd and weâ€™ll be looking to bounce back after last weekend. It looks set up for a very good game.â€ť
Foxes boss Nigel Pearson, whose side won 2-1 at home to Swansea last week and 2-0 at Macclesfield on Tuesday, is looking to carry on where his side left off during last seasonâ€™s League One championship campaign: "Our away record was good and the fans backed us everywhere we went and if we can emulate last season's away form that would be something special, but that is what we aspire to.
"The mood is positive, you would probably expect that, and we are looking forward to the game. It really is a case of being positive and looking to do as well as we can do and I have confidence in the players.
"That has got to be the mentality but we certainly have players who can cause problems for the opposition. What is important is that every game we go into, we try to win but we have to play smart football.
"You can't go in gung-ho, if you have to weather the storm you have got to be able to deal with it but likewise we need to be creative as well.
"I have been pleased with the way things have gone so far but it is only two games, and one in the league, so it is very hard to predict how the season is going to go but there have been encouraging signs and that is the most important thing."
Town have the edge on Leicester historically, winning 25 (25 in the league) clashes between the sides, drawing 15 (14) and losing 21 (19).
Last time the Foxes were at Portman Road was in December 2007 when goals from Pablo CouÃ±ago, Alan Lee and Jon Walters gave the Blues a 3-1 victory, Iain Hume netting for the visitors.
Later that month, Leicester gained their revenge with a 2-0 Boxing Day win, Richard Stearman and Patrick Kisnorbo scoring the goals.
In the 2006/07 Portman Road fixture between the sides, Town skipper Gareth McAuley scored both goals in a 2-0 Leicester win.
McAuley is not the only member of Roy Keaneâ€™s squad to have featured for the Foxes, Damien Delaney started his English career at Leicester and Ben Thatcher had a spell at the Walkers Stadium. First team coach Tony Loughlan worked at Leicesterâ€™s academy until joining Keane at Sunderland in 2006.
Central defender Wayne Brown is the only former Blue in the Leicester squad, although manager Nigel Pearson was close to being offered the Town bossâ€™s job in 2006 but lost out to Jim Magilton.
Issue 98 of the TWTD fanzine is out prior to Saturdayâ€™s game. It features the memories of Sir Bobby Robsonâ€™s time with the Blues collected on the site last week. In addition to the tributes to Sir Bob, Gavin Barber looks at the current rebranding of Town, Roger Hermiston reviews Roy Keaneâ€™s 2002 autobiography and Ray Slegg travels to Sweden for the European U21 Championships in amongst most of the usual sort of stuff.
Look out for our sellers by Sir Alf, next to Planet Blue and by the Portman Road entrance to the Greene King Stand.
Single issues, costing ÂŁ1.50, or six-issue subscriptions from ÂŁ9.50 are available here.
Prior to the game there will be a minuteâ€™s applause in tribute to Sir Bobby Robson, while the club will also be giving out a free magazine with fans asked to make donations to charity in return.
Saturdayâ€™s referee is Phil Crossley from Kent, who has already shown himself to be quick to show a red card in his two games so far this season. Former Blue Danny Haynes, now at Bristol City, was dismissed on Tuesday, while Nottingham Forestâ€™s Luke Chambers was given his marching orders last Saturday. In addition to the two red cards, he has shown five yellows.
Crossley, who has previously taken control of a couple of Premier League games, last reffed the Blues during the 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool in February.
Likely squad: R Wright, Supple, Bruce, D Wright, Delaney, McAuley, Balkestein, Smith, Healy, Trotter, Peters, Quinn, Garvan, Upson, Colback, Walters, Martin, Stead, Priskin, Wickham.
Photo: Action Images
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