Double blow for Hull City
Sone Aluko and Ahmed Elmohamady to miss key period
As Hull City toiled to overcome Leyton Orient in the third round of the FA Cup, manager Steve Bruce was mulling over two setbacks in his side's push for promotion to the Premier League. Although Hull are through to round four of the Cup, the league remains very much the priority.
Sone Aluko has proven to be an excellent addition to the Tigers' ranks, providing pace, dribbling ability and goals since his arrival in the summer from Glasgow Rangers.
Aluko missed a large chunk of December with an achilles injury and it is a torn achilles that looks set to keep him out of the City team for the next six to eight weeks.
Speaking to BBC Radio Humberside, Bruce confirmed: "It looks as if he has a small tear in his Achilles and he's going to be in a boot for the best part of four weeks.
"It is going to be the best part of six to eight weeks before he is back and it is a major concern to us."
He added: "He has been paramount to the way we have played so it is a horrible blow. We'll be trying our utmost to try and bring someone in now."
In his previous absence the Tigers still managed to put an unbeaten run together which resulted in Bruce winning the Championship Manager of the Month Award, but the Nigerian international will be a big miss.
Ahmed Elmohamady was signed on a season-long loan from Sunderland where Bruce was manager until he left in 2011. The Eygptian international has been a revelation for City, fitting in comfortably into the 3-5-2 formation that has served the team so well this season at right wing-back. Providing width and a deadly accuracy with balls into the box, Elmohamady will be sorely missed.
A January recall clause had been inserted into the loan deal and Sunderland exercised their right to recall the player this week. There is hope that once the Wearsiders injury problems clear up, that the player may return to Hull to finish the season with Bruce's men.
The task facing Bruce is to decide on who steps into replace the missing duo and whether he will need to alter his formation to accomodate them. Liam Rosenior is undoubtedly one of the top right-backs in the Championship and will likely get the opportunity to fill the void left by Elmohamady. Although stronger defensively than Elmohamady, Rosenior will have to adapt his game to equal the attacking threat offered by the Egyptian.
Who steps in for Aluko is less obvious, however. Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail, Bruce challenged Nick Proschwitz and Jay Simpson to step up to the mark and replace the 23-year-old frontman. He said: "There's a space in the side to fill now and the emphasis has to be on them to go and grab it."
The duo both played in the win at Orient with Proschwitz scoring an incredible volley to put City ahead. So far, Proschwitz has failed to nail down a regular place in the City side, but he has shown in recent substitute appearances especially - away from home - that he is adapting to the English game and can start to repay the fee of over €2 million that Hull invested in him in the summer.
Simpson has had a barren run in front of goal of late, with no goals in 12 games. However, the City boss was pleased with his performance at Orient, adding: "Some of his movement was excellent and if Jay had scored his two chances, he would have been the best player on the pitch by a million miles".
The choice, unless reinforcements are brought in, is to perm two from three of Proschwitz, Simpson and captain Robert Koren who has partnered Aluko recently, for the two striking roles. It may well be that Proschwitz and Koren will link up for the first time.
A testing time for Hull perhaps as they look to cement their place in the automatic promotion places as Leicester are starting to ominously close the points gap.
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