Date: 29th February 2008 at 2:52pm
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For the first time in sometime, we appear to be close to having a fully fit squad with no major injury problems or suspensions to worry about. Of course, that could all change quickly but lets have a look at the current injury situations:

Besart Berisha

Bes will probably be the last to return to full fitness but he seems to be making excellent progress following his cruciate ligament damage. He has yet to make his first team debut in a competitive match for the Clarets after cruelly being injured whilst on International duty for Albania back in September 2007.

Recently however, he did complete the Great North West Half-Marathon in Blackpool last Sunday as part of his rehabilitation programme and could be available for selection before the end of the season.

Michael Duff

Duff has made incredible progress since also suffering from cruciate ligament damage which was originally thought would keep him out of action all season.

He damaged lateral and cruciate knee ligaments, as well as a hamstring tendon in the match against Crystal Palace at the end of September.

The great news is that he is now back in action having played in a recent reserve match.Duff in fact played the full 90 minutes in a 3-0 defeat against Preston North End Reserves at Bamber Bridge this week and had this to say about his preformance.

‘I was just glad to get through the 90 minutes I wasn’t particularly pleased with my performance, but it’s been five months since I played now, so other things will come, like my heading and all the things like that.

‘But my knee felt good, which is the most important thing, and it’s 90 minutes under my belt.’

‘It might take four games, it might take seven or eight. It’s hard to put a marker on it but it’s a start,’ he continued.

It is possible therefore we could be seeing Duff in the sixteen sometime in March-April which is excellent news.

Alan Mahon

The midfielder has suffered from a niggling hamstring problem these last few weeks and his last appearance was against Coventry City at the Ricoh back in January when he came on from the bench after 59 minutes. You would have to go back to our home game against Preston in December 2007 for the last time he was named in the starting eleven.

Nevertheless, he too played against this time the Reserves version of Preston in midweek and played for 60 minutes. He too looks close to being available for selection.

Stan Varga

Stan along with Ade,picked up a flu virus a couple of weeks back, and he was substituted early on in the away game at Plymouth,unable to continue. Akinbiyi did not even make the sixteen for Plymouth but returned against Coventry at Turf Moor in midweek and now looks to be over the worst. Varga however was still sidelined for that match but the good news today is that he has now fully recovered and is available for selection this Saturday for the home match against Watford.

Andrew Cole

Its been a troublesome few weeks for our loan striker. His Achilles tendon injury has kept him sidelined now for the last two matches against Plymouth and Coventry. He has also had personal problems having recently been first arrested then bailed following an alleged assault on his wife.

The good news however is that at least the injury appears to have sorted itself out and he is now available for selection against Watford.

‘Looking ahead, I would expect to have Andrew Cole and Stan Varga available,’ confirmed Coyle on the club’s website.

‘Give the fact we had a great result the other night that gives me some selection dilemmas, but that’s the kind of problems that managers want.’

Indeed it does, so who do you think will play on Saturday against Watford? Coyle would appear to have choices in the back four, midfield and attack.

As far as the back four are concerned, it is still too early for Duff and I expect Stan Varga and David Unsworth could be the casualties. Coyle will probably keep the back-four the same with Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell and Harley but he could name both Varga and Unsworth on the bench.

The midfield selection dilemma for Coyle could be more related to how well Mark Randall played against Coventry after coming on from the bench in the second-half. Could he be given his first chance in the starting eleven? I think he should and probably Gudjonsson will be the one to suffer. Mahon I suspect could still be sidelined and might have to fight his way back into the sixteen.

In attack, there is no doubt in my mind at the moment that Cole and Akinbiyi are the best option in 4-4-2 and I am afraid it should be Lafferty who should be dropped.I have not seen enough recently from the Northern Ireland International either on the wing or in attack to warrant a starting eleven place. I would prefer Blake to play a wider left midfield role but cant see a position for him at the moment with all the other midfielders on form and he too could be a casualty and start on the bench as he did against Coventry.

My team for Watford therefore would be as follows but feel free to argue against me either in the comments box below or in our forums:

Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, James O’Connor, McCann, Randall, Akinbiyi, Cole

Subs: Kiraly, Unsworth, Gudjonsson, Blake, Lafferty

I do wish we could add a loan left sided winger to the squad though but we appear to have lost out on both Chelsea’s Scott Sinclair (now on loan with Charlton) and Middlesbrough’s Adam Johnson (Watford to be first choice if loaned out)if indeed the rumours of our interest were true.