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Bolton midfield woes open door for Vela
Published : 24 Apr 2012 09:47:02
Bolton manager Owen Coyle could be forced to turn to untested 18-year-old Josh Vela for the crunch relegation clash with Aston Villa.
The Trotters go into the match - the first of two games in hand they enjoy over their relegation rivals - in 19th spot, and Coyle concedes his side are struggling for numbers in the middle of the park after a "freak season" for injuries.
Coyle said: "We're decimated for numbers again. Mark Davies has a knock and we're hoping he'll be okay. I think I'm left with Nigel Reo-Coker of my senior midfielders, having had eight at the start of the season... we also have young Josh Vela, who's going to be a top, top player so we'll patch it up and look to do our very best to get the points available to us."
Having approached the campaign with a variety of central midfield options, Bolton now have just one fully fit senior player in the position in the shape of Nigel Reo-Coker.
Mark Davies missed training on Monday after suffering a knock against Swansea on Saturday, leaving Vela - who made his debut as an 89th-minute substitute in that game - in contention for a starting place.
If Davies is ruled out he would join the likes of Lee Chung-yong (broken leg), Stuart Holden (cruciate ligaments), Ricardo Gardner (hip), Darren Pratley (illness) and Sean Davis (knee) on the sidelines, while fellow midfielder Fabrice Muamba is still making a tentative recovery from his on-field cardiac arrest.
"This has been a real freak season, starting in pre-season with the cruciate ligaments and the leg breaks and culminating in a number of other things that have happened. We've probably been dealt a lot of uncontrollables," Coyle said.
His threadbare squad may be tested to the limit with the extra fixture burden they face, but he sees the positives in having more games and more points to play for than his rivals.
"There are six points available from the games in hand. If you told me we'd get six points from those games, you'd do somersaults to get them," he said.
"We'd have loved to have those points in the bag, but we have the opportunity and we have to maximise that opportunity."