Four wins from Wembley, a potential return for a forgotten man and keeping up a 100% record - talking points ahead of Posh trip
PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 December 2019
Ipswich Town are in EFL Trophy action against Peterborough United this evening. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the knockout clash at London Road
Here we go then, the three-month group stage slog is over and the knockout section of the EFL Trophy is here.
Peterborough's the destination to face a battle with another League One promotion rival, following the 2-2 draw between the two sides back in August, with the winners moving one step closer to a Wembley final.
If there's no winner inside 90 minutes then we're heading straight for a penalty shoot out, bypassing extra-time, with the winners of that heading to the last 16.
The same selection criteria carries over from the group stage, meaning Paul Lambert must select four 'qualifying players' in his starting XI.
That means four outfield players must have started the last league game (0-0 draw with Wycombe), start the next league game (at Coventry on Saturday), be one of the 10 players to have started the most games this season, have made more than 40 appearances in their career or be on loan from a Premier League club.
The long and short of it is that these rules won't cause Lambert any issues at all when it comes to selecting his side.
So who will play?
There are some obvious candidates for action here, with Lambert insisting he will be 'going strong' for this game.
If fit, Toto Nsiala should return to the middle of the Ipswich defence while Myles Kenlock is an almost-certain starter at left-back.
Emyr Huws should return in midfield while Gwion Edwards, Anthony Georgiou and Idris El Mizouni are also potential starters.
Jordan Roberts, who has three goals to his name in this competition this season, could return after missing more than a month with a toe injury and Armando Dobra could also be back in the fold.
Lambert has used a string of teenagers in the Trophy already this season, meaning the likes of Brett McGavin, Ben Folami, Tyreece Simpson and Tommy Hughes could make the squad again.
Four more wins, four more wins
Ipswich Town are just four wins away from a Wembley final and, regardless of attitudes towards this competition, you have to feel like they have a genuine shot of reaching the national stadium.
You have to go back to 2000 for Ipswich's last Wembley appearance of course, in the second tier play-off final, but the Blues are one of just eight EFL clubs who haven't graced the iconic stadium since it was rebuilt in 2007.
For the record the other seven are; Accrington Stanley, Blackburn Rovers, Colchester United, Crawley, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Port Vale.
It's time for that statistic to disappear.
The Norwood factor (again)
It feels like there's a section in these previews based around James Norwood before every game. It's for good reason.
The striker's availability and fitness has become more and more of a central theme in recent weeks, with the former Tranmere man still working his way back to his best after a groin operation.
He was an unused substitute at Coventry at the weekend and is suspended for the return to St Andrew's on Saturday, so could he play his first EFL Trophy game of his career?
He went scoreless during a November which included only 173 minutes of action and, if he isn't involved tonight, he will have gone another two weeks without a game - potentially more if he doesn't play in the FA Cup replay with Coventry next week.
In from the arctic?
It's been 585 days since Barry Cotter's last appearance for Ipswich Town.
Since then he's been firmly in the cold, firstly under Paul Hurst then again under Lambert as the club battled relegation.
It's clear the Irishman has plenty of talent - his display in what proved to be Mick McCarthy's final Ipswich Town game made that abundantly clear - but there have been questions over his attitude and application since.
But with Kane Vincent-Young injured and Josh Emmanuel departed, Janoi Donacien stands alone as the only fit, senior right-back at Portman Road.
Edwards has been used in that position but, by his own admission, he's best as a winger. A left-sided one at that.
Lambert has rightly stressed that first-team football can't be offered up as a gift, a gesture or come easily and it's clear Cotter has plenty of work to do to prove he has what it takes to be a professional.
But with right-back options thinner than thin behind Donacien, could this be the Irishman's chance? If he's not involved, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Cotter makes a return to senior action with Ipswich.
A record on the line
Is there a bigger fan of the EFL Trophy than Ed Sheeran?
The Ipswich-supporting superstar, who of course lives in Framlingham, has been at all three of Town's games in the competition so far.
He witnessed the 2-1 win over Tottenham's Under 21s, the 4-0 thrashing of Gillingham and hit the road for the dead rubber defeat away at Colchester last month.
Framlingham to Peterborough is 100 miles, though, putting his 100% attendance record to the test.