Blackpool stretched to breaking point for Middlesbrough match

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Blackpool’s squad will be stretched to the limit for tonight’s encounter with Middlesbrough.

 

The Seasiders have posted yet another positive Covid-19 case since the Boxing Day defeat at Huddersfield Town.

Sonny Carey, meanwhile, is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a metatarsal injury on Sunday.

Sonny Carey has joined the injured list at Blackpool

Sonny Carey has joined the injured list at Blackpool

With Jordan Gabriel suspended for the next two games and a host of other players already out with Covid and injuries, Blackpool could struggle to name the required 14 players for tonight’s 7.45pm kick-off at Bloomfield Road.

EFL rules dictate that fixtures should go ahead if clubs are able to field 13 outfield players plus a goalkeeper. Whether the Seasiders are able to do so depends on the results of their daily Covid tests.

Should the game go ahead, Blackpool will be especially short on options in central midfield, with Kenny Dougall the only available player.

Matty Virtue, Kevin Stewart, Ryan Wintle, Grant Ward and Carey are all unavailable, while Callum Connolly and Reece James – two defenders capable of filling in higher up the field – are also absent.

Head coach Neil Critchley said: “We’re going to have to juggle some balls and pull a rabbit out of a hat.

“We’ll have to put our heads together and engineer a team we think can be competitive against a very good Middlesbrough team.

“At the moment we’re right on the limit. We’re looking slightly thin on the ground.

“We had another positive test on Monday and we’ve got a couple of injuries from the game against Huddersfield.

“At the moment we’re okay but anything more and it would be dangerous territory.”

Blackpool take on a Boro team flying under new boss Chris Wilder, with four wins from their last five games.

“You can see the quality they’ve got in their squad,” Critchley said. “Chris has come in and implemented a style of play which is slightly different to how they played under Neil Warnock.

“It’s a similar system, though, with a back three and three in midfield, which is something Chris is used to from his time at Sheffield United.

“He was quite rightly lauded for his formation and his philosophy at Sheffield United. He’s implemented something similar at Middlesbrough and enjoyed success very quickly.

“He’s an excellent manager and they’ve got good players. They’re in good form and have not conceded a goal in their last four games, so it shows you the task we’ve got in front of us.

“They’ve jumped up the league and are in a play-off place, so it’s a big, big test for us.”