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After starting December by collecting four points from fixtures against Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough, Michael O’Neill would have been satisfied with the trajectory of his Stoke side.
However, any momentum generated from that double-header has now been lost, and the Potters head into their meeting with Derby effectively starting from scratch.
Somewhere down the line, a near three-week break may benefit the legs, but being out of match practice may not stand Stoke in good stead ahead of winnable home games with Derby and Preston North End.
Before the unexpected interval, Stoke had kept five clean sheets during seven games, conceding just twice, but just six goals were scored during that run.
Stoke possess the third-best defensive record at home this season, although 15 goals in 11 outings at the
Despite the extended break from action, Stoke are not expected to welcome back any of their previous absentees.
Owing to coronavirus cases, those results came 16 days apart, but that is further testament to the job that Rooney continues to do at Pride Park.
While Derby had to ride their luck against the Baggies, the result was all that mattered, and they are now within 14 points adrift of safety.
Overturning that deficit is still a mammoth task even with half of the campaign remaining, although Rooney will feel that his team are performing to a level where they can continue to upset the odds over the coming weeks and months
While coronavirus cases will likely affect his team selection, O’Neill may look to select much of the side which drew with Middlesbrough on December 11.
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Rooney has revealed that Phil Jagielka, Graeme Shinnie, Kamil Jozwiak and Tom Lawrence should all return to the squad after coronavirus.
Having spent more time out of isolation, Jagielka and Jozwiak appear most likely to be recalled, with Richard Stearman‘s and Sam Baldock‘s places both at risk.
Colin Kazim-Richards may also come back into the starting lineup after scoring the decisive goal versus West Brom.
Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Derby County possible starting lineup:
Allsop; Byrne, Jagielka, Davies; Ebosele, Thompson, Bird, Forsyth; Knight, Kazim-Richards, Jozwiak