Record-breaking U's, big decisions and leaving out a loanee - Town v Oxford talking points
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Ipswich Town host Oxford United today (3pm ko). Mark Heath takes a look at the key talking points surrounding the game...
Red hot U's
With Town on such a miserable run, the last thing they need now is to welcome a team who are bang in form.
Oxford are that side - top of the League One form table over the past six games with five wins and a single defeat (3-2 at fellow promotion chasers Doncaster), and having recently set a new club record with nine straight victories.
Ipswich, in contrast, are down in 18th in that form table. These two sides may have drawn 0-0 at Oxford back on December 1, but make no mistake - this is a very different Oxford outfit now.
A glance at the all-time record doesn't make happy reading either - Town have neither beaten Oxford nor scored against them this century, a run of three games.
The last time they did either of the above against the U's was in a 2-1 win on February 20, 1999.
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Of course, Town can't play a game against one of the division's top sides without mention of their abysmal record against said top sides.
In case you need reminding, the Blues have lost all nine of their games against the top seven sides in League One - not a single point has been plundered.
Now, Oxford are currently eighth, so not technically a top seven side - but there's no doubt that a Town win, or even a draw, would be seen as evidence that perhaps they can live with the best teams in the third tier.
Boss Paul Lambert has some big calls to make on team selection. Having dropped youthful full-backs Luke Matheson and Myles Kenlock for the defeat at Peterborough, he brought them back for the terrible 0-0 draw with Northampton in midweek.
So, does he stick with them again, or recall old warhorses Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward to the starting 11? Could he keep faith with Matheson at right back and move skipper Chambers inside, his more natural position, to team him with either Luke Woolfenden or Mark McGuiness?
Elsewhere, Lambert could also look at starting with James Norwood and Alan Judge - two players who made a difference off the bench in that dire midweek draw.
Norwood, however, would likely be limited to 60 minutes or less as he continues to recover from injury.
Winger Keanan Bennetts, now fit again and available for selection, could also offer something different. Which brings us to...
Leaving out a loanee
For the first time since the transfer window slammed shut, all of Town's six loan players are fit and ready to play.
With only five allowed in your matchday squad though, that means one will have to be left out.
Mark McGuiness, Luke Matheson, the aforementioned Bennetts, Josh Harrop, Luke Thomas and Troy Parrott are the six who will have to be cut to five.
You'd think Bennetts would be the odd man out - but who knows?
Out in the cold
Two players who certainly won't be involved are striker Kayden Jackson - last season's joint top scorer - and midfielder Jon Nolan, joint-second in the scoring charts this campaign.
As we revealed earlier this week, both have been exiled from the first team and are training with Kieron Dyer's Under 23 side.
Lambert confirmed that yesterday, saying 'they've let the club down.'
One can only wonder what effect such treatment of two senior players will have on the morale of the rest of the squad.