Last Saturday, Tony Mowbray picked what I reckon he believes to be his strongest team at present – no one did anything to force their way into his thinking on Tuesday at Hartlepool. So, is this how we’ll line up today against Ipswich?
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Nathan Bishop’s arrived from Man Utd, and he’ll likely push Patterson harder than Alex Bass was able to do last season, however, Patto will deservedly start the season as first choice.
Defenders: Trai Hume, Dan Ballard, Luke O’Nien, Dennis Cirkin
Danny Batth’s been the biggest story of the preseason for me – firstly the rumours he can go, then not playing alongside Ballard last weekend, to not even having the captain’s armband at Hartlepool on Tuesday.
For a player who was so pivotal last time out, and given our dearth of experienced players, I would have thought he’d have been a stick-on for a first XI place – however, I think we’ll see Luke O’Nien alongside Dan Ballard at the heart of the defence today.
On the right, Trai Hume will hopefully continue his fine form from the second half of the campaign, while if fit Dennis Cirkin will start on the left.
Midfield: Dan Neil, Pierre Ekwah
Neil and Ekwah finished the last campaign as the first-choice midfield pairing, and the experience of playing last season will stand them in really good stead this time out.
Before Matete’s injury I thought we were well stocked in midfield but in truth, at present, Neil and Ekwah haven’t got much competition – particularly if we see Rigg, Ba and Bellingham playing further forward and O’Nien at the back – which is the case judging by what’s happened in pre-season.
Mowbray’s spoken of getting in midfield reinforcements, and hopefully, we will over the next week or two.
Attacking midfield: Patrick Roberts, Jobe Bellingham, Jack Clarke
Roberts and Clarke pick themselves when fit, and it’s the ‘number 10’ role that is up for grabs. I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Chris Rigg get the nod as a bit of a wildcard – I suspect we’ll see Dack on Tuesday rather than today – but I reckon Bellingham will get the jersey today ahead of Rigg and Pritchard.
Well, there’s little option, is there?
To be fair, even if he had some competition, Hemir would likely be in with a shout for the starting XI based on his pre-season form, so hopefully, he’s among the goals from the off today... And stays fit!