Bristol City: Lee Johnson says season suspension could boost Premier League promotion bid
Championship returns on Saturday with Fulham vs Brentford and West Brom vs Birmingham, live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 17/06/20 8:43pm
Lee Johnson says his Bristol City squad are in a "much better place" compared to when the Championship season was suspended in March.
The Robins boss believes the enforced break could work in their favour as they bid for Premier League promotion, affording January signings Nahki Wells, Filip Benkovic and Marcus Henriksen extra time to familiarise themselves with Johnson's style of play.
Bristol sit seventh in the Sky Bet Championship table, one point outside the play-off positions, and resume with a trip to fellow top-six hopefuls Blackburn on Saturday.
"We're in a much better place," said Johnson. "The new players are fully integrated.
"Our system of play is not necessarily a simple one. It takes three or four weeks at least to be able to bed in and understand the movements and patterns.
"And just having players at full tilt - people like Tomas Kalas was still chasing fitness physically, not in terms of his lungs but in terms of his injuries. Now we've pretty much got a clean bill of health in terms of injuries and niggles.
"That puts us in a really good place, particularly with the fact you can now use five substitutes from nine. That becomes a really important dynamic and will be very interesting.
"It will provide a lot of good entertainment for the viewer because the tempo of the game will naturally stay higher."
City's preparations were rocked on Tuesday when they confirmed a positive coronavirus test. The squad have been tested again since, with all returning negative results.
"It was an asymptomatic positive result," said Johnson. "It was a bit of a shock because we'd a clean bill of health so far.
"At the same time we have to expect that to happen in this day and age. We need to adjust and we can do that because of the good work everyone has put in."
Johnson has otherwise a "fully-fit team" to pick from for Saturday's game, including Benik Afobe.
The on-loan striker, who has been sidelined since suffering a serious knee injury in training last September, scored two goals in a friendly match on Tuesday.
"It's a huge boost," said Johnson. "Benik is an unbelievable character and a real positive influence around the group, as well as being a very good football player.
"In life there are winners and losers out of this situation and certainly Benik, for all the hard work he has put in… It was such a disappointment for us to lose such a key man so early in the season.
"Plus with his own personal tragedy (his two-year-old daughter two-year-old daughter Amora died in December from a severe infection), this has almost given him a focus if you like, to get fit and be a part of the last nine - and hopefully 12 - games.
"He's in good shape but we've got to be careful. He hasn't played in nearly nine months. We've got to tiptoe him into it, rather than expect him to come flying out of the blocks."
The Championship will return to action on Saturday with 108 games left to play. Here's a refresher to bring you up to speed with the state of play so far this season.
Promotion-chasing Leeds, West Brom, Fulham and Brentford are all in front of the Sky Sports cameras on the Championship's first weekend back.
The action returns with a derby double-header on Saturday as west London rivals Fulham and Brentford meet at Craven Cottage (12.30pm), before second-placed West Brom take on Birmingham later that afternoon (3pm) with the chance to go top - for a few hours at least.
Current leaders Leeds will try to retain their advantage and edge that bit closer to a Premier League return when they travel to Cardiff for a midday kick-off on Sunday.