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Michael O’Neill offers Stoke City team news update ahead of Derby County clash – Football League World

Stoke City have declared the first team squad Covid-19 free ahead of Thursday’s clash with Derby County.

Michael O’Neill had 10 players returning to training last Saturday ahead of tomorrow night’s game.
Stoke haven’t played a match in any competition since their 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough on December 11. 
O’Neill will have virtually the same squad available to him this Thursday as he did for the game against the Boro. 
“The 10 Covid cases are all back. They were back training from Sunday afternoon and have trained since and there have been no additions to that,” said O’Neill, via Stoke Sentinel

“The other players who trained in that period has been a shadow squad with, I think, eight senior players and a number of the under-23s. We still have six or seven injuries still unavailable to us.
“The 19-day period has not really helped with injuries because realistically we will have played those two games more than likely in January before any of the injured players are available again.”
Of course, not every player who had coronavirus has reacted the same, so O’Neill and his medical department will need to assess everyone’s varying degrees of fitness following their bout with the virus. 

O’Neill admitted he is wary of players’ fitness levels following their absence, but he praised the club’s medical staff for how they’ve dealt with the issue.
“There were one or two who were a bit more stiff and sore or a bit more fatigued the day after they first trained but I think they’ve adapted to that now. I think the medical team have handled it extremely well.”
Stoke are eighth in the Championship, with two games in hand on their promotion play-off rivals. 
Following Thursday night’s game, Stoke begin 2022 with a home fixture against Preston North End on January 3. 

The Verdict
Stoke have been given over a two week break from Championship football, but the extent of the coronavirus outbreak within the club means that was hardly a good thing. 
Those who avoided infection will be well rested, a rarity in Championship football, but those coming back will have to be managed well to avoid any long-term damage. 
It was good of O’Neill to praise his medical staff, who will have a lot of work to do managing the 10 players who were missing from training the last few weeks. 

The upcoming fixture list isn’t too intense either, and thus it should allow those who were out a chance to ease back into playing full time again.
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