Why Bristol City may get changed on the concourse ahead of tomorrow's clash with Sheffield Wednesday
The logistical issues surrounding football’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will make themselves felt at Ashton Gate tomorrow as Sheffield Wednesday make the trip to take on Bristol City.
The clash is an important one for both sides and pits the Robins, playoff-chasing but on the hop following their 2-0 defeat at Blackburn, against an Owls side keen to put more points between themselves and the relegation zone after their encouraging 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.
Bristol City announced a positive case of coronavirus after a round of testing last week. It has not been confirmed whether the individual, who is still self-isolating, was a player or staff member. Wednesday were again given the all-clear this week and every precaution has been taken by both clubs to continue player welfare.
Speaking to the media ahead of the match, City boss Lee Johnson revealed some of the extraordinary lengths the club have gone to in order to ensure social distancing is kept in place, including the possibility of undertaking their pre-match preparations on the stadium concourse.
Asked this week whether the whole squad will be able to take to the tight Ashton Gate changing rooms, he said: “We have had to make some changes and adaptations and the guys have done well.
“We're not even using the changing rooms at the moment for the stadium; the guys are just coming in and literally putting their boots on pitchside and then going from there.
“Obviously, a matchday involves meetings and things like that so we've actually opened up the concourse so we can socially distance and have a big screen and watch the pre-match tactical reminders, as we call it.
“I've got that decision to make because our XI is ok to be in the dressing room. Then we've got a breakout area which is filled with astroturf so we could effectively remove the subs or leave the subs warming up on the side but at the same time, you want to make sure that the five substitutes all understand.
“So we will be prepped for both and make sure that both options will be available to us.”
Johnson’s side were way below-par in their defeat at Ewood Park, leaving some describing Sunday’s clash as a must-win.
“We'll do everything we can to go and win the game, but I suppose we'll probably know more depending on results on the Saturday because we play on the Sunday and how important it is,” the Robins boss said.
“But to be honest they always feel like must-win games, whether the first game of the season or the last.”
The home side have a clean bill of health aside from the news that Pedro Pereira is out for the season, meaning former Owls Jack Hunt is likely to start at right-back.
Former Sheffield Wednesday loanee Benik Afobe could start up top after picking up a knock at Blackburn.
Johnson said: “There are no excuses: we should have a strong starting XI and a strong bench and it's up to the players to cross the white line and produce.”