Championship returns on Saturday with Fulham vs Brentford and West Brom vs Birmingham, survive Sky Sports
Last Updated: 17/06/20 8:43pm
Lee Johnson says his Bristol City squad have been in a “much better place” compared to once the Championship season was suspended in March.
The Robins boss believes the enforced break could work in their favour as they bid for Premier League promotion, affording January signings Nahki Wells, Filip Benkovic and Marcus Henriksen extra time to familiarise themselves with Johnson’s style of play.
Bristol sit seventh in the Sky Bet Championship dining table, one point outside the play-off positions, and resume with a trip to fellow top-six hopefuls Blackburn on Saturday.
“We’re in a much better place,” said Johnson. “The new players are fully integrated.
“Our system of play is not fundamentally a simple one. It takes three or four weeks at least to help you to bed in and understand the movements and patterns.
“And just having players at full tilt – people like Tomas Kalas was still chasing fitness physically, perhaps not in terms of his lungs however in terms of his injuries. Now we’ve pretty much got a clean bill of health with regards to injuries and niggles.
Bristol C vs Sheff Wed
June 28, 2020, 11:30am
“That puts us in a really good place, especially with the actual fact you can now use five substitutes from nine. That becomes a really crucial dynamic and you will be very interesting.
“It will provide a lot of good entertainment for the viewer because the tempo of the game will naturally stay higher.”
City’s preparations were rocked on Tuesday when they confirmed a positive coronavirus test. The squad have now been tested again since, with all returning negative results.
“It was an asymptomatic positive result,” said Johnson. “It was a bit of a shock because we’d a clean bill of health to date.
“At the same time we have to expect that to happen in this day and age. We need to adjust and we can do that because of the good work everyone has put in.”
Johnson has otherwise a “fully-fit team” available for Saturday’s game, including Benik Afobe.
The on-loan striker, who has been sidelined since putting up with a serious knee injury in training last September, scored two goals in an agreeable match on Tuesday.
“It’s a huge boost,” said Johnson. “Benik is an unbelievable character and a real positive influence round the group, along with being an excellent football player.
“In life there are winners and losers out of this situation and undoubtedly Benik, for all your hard work he’s got put in… It was such a disappointment for us to reduce such a key man so early in the season.
“Plus with his own private tragedy (his two-year-old daughter two-year-old daughter Amora died in December from a severe infection), it has almost given him a focus if you want, to get fit and be an integral part of the last nine – and hopefully 12 – games.
“He’s in good shape but we’ve got to be careful. He hasn’t played in nearly nine months. We’ve got to tiptoe him into it, rather than expect him to come flying out of the blocks.”
Championship 19/20: The Story so far
The Championship will go back to action on Saturday with 108 games left to play. Here’s a refresher to bring you up to speed with the state of play to date this season.
Sky to show 30 games as Championship restarts
Promotion-chasing Leeds, West Brom, Fulham and Brentford are typical in front of the Sky Sports cameras on the Championship’s first weekend straight back.
The action returns with a derby double-header on Saturday as west London rivals Fulham and Brentford meet at Craven Cottage (12.30pm), before second-placed West Brom accept Birmingham later that afternoon (3pm) with the chance to go top – for a few hours at least.
Current leaders Leeds will attempt to retain their advantage and edge that bit closer to a Premier League return if they travel to Cardiff for a midday kick-off on Sunday.