Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill said paramount before him this weekend would be to ascertain Mikel Obi’s fitness level.
Fielding questions from journalists in Thursday press conference ahead of Carabao Cup first-round clash with Blackpool on Saturday, O”Neill hinted that he will keep a close watch on the former Trabzonspor midfielder to see if he is ready for full game action.
Mikel showed no sign of fatigue in Stoke City 5-1 win over Shrewsbury in a friendly match this week, the Nigerian will be hoping to feature in his first competitive game since joining the Potters as a free agent.
O’Neill then praised Mikel for being a true professional after the former Chelsea star pushed himself beyond limit in training in a bid to regain full fitness.
“We have to consider where the players are in terms of their fitness. If you look at John (Obi Mikel) for example, he’s not played since March because he terminated his contract at Trabzonspor.
“John has settled in really well, trained really hard and we’ve just got to build up his fitness and his minutes.
O’Neill then showered encomium on Mikel and other new signings for their positive impact on the team and ensuring a steady camaraderie in the dressing room.
“The important thing was considering the stage of career the players are at that we are bringing the right types of people into the building. They’ve settled well and I think strengthened the group. They are all good professionals and good types” O’Niell told Stoke on Trent on Thursday.