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Stoke City boss O’Neill gives update on Mikel ahead of League Cup clash against Blackpool

19:04 BST 27/08/2020
John Obi Mikel
The Potters will begin their 2020-21 campaign with a League Cup fixture at home this weekend

Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill said John Obi Mikel’s fitness level will determine if he will be involved in League Cup first round outing against Blackpool on Saturday.

The former Super Eagles captain, who joined the Potters on a free transfer on August 17, scored his first goal for the Championship club on Tuesday during a pre-season friendly match against League One side Shrewsbury Town.

Mikel marked his first start for Stoke City with a goal and was on parade for 45 minutes before he was replaced at the break.

Ahead of Saturday’s match at the bet365 Stadium, O’Neill revealed that Mikel is still working on his fitness, having not played a competitive game since March, when he competed in the Turkish Super Lig with Trabzonspor.

The Northern Irish tactician also reserved praise for how the former Chelsea midfielder has settled in at the club.

“We have to consider where the players are in terms of their fitness," O’Neill said in a press conference. "If you look at John [Obi Mikel] for example, he’s not played since March because he terminated his contract at Trabzonspor.

“Steven (Fletcher) and Morgan (Fox) were still under contract at Sheffield Wednesday at that point in time. That means they are probably all in different places physically.

“John has settled in really well, trained really hard and we’ve just got to build up his fitness and his minutes.

“Morgan, we’ve been really pleased, and Fletch coming in as well. We can see their quality but we have to manage fitness wise in terms of overall fitness, match fitness and getting minutes in their legs.”

Mikel, a former League Cup champion at Chelsea, will be expected to help Stoke City progress to the second round of the competition.

After Saturday’s outing, O’Neill’s men will begin the 2020-21 Championship season with a trip to Millwall on September 12.