Bristol Rovers predicted XI vs Sutton United: Change in goalkeeper, debut for new signing

Anssi Jaakkola has an opportunity to become Bristol Rovers’ number one again. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)Anssi Jaakkola has an opportunity to become Bristol Rovers’ number one again. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Anssi Jaakkola has an opportunity to become Bristol Rovers’ number one again. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
New signings mean that Joey Barton has a decision on his hand on whether to give him a run in the side

Bristol Rovers are on their travels this weekend as they travel to the capital to face Sutton United.

The Gas are League Two’s in-form team with 13 points out of a possible 15, which has put them into the top-half of the table.

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Saturday’s opponents Sutton sit in fourth and those play-off spots are where Rovers will want to be at the end of the season.

After previously beating them in the FA Cup, Rovers know what it takes to beat Matt Gray’s side.

But a lot has changed since that win back in December with a number of transfers for both sides.

Regardless of the 11 points separating the two sides, Joey Barton’s side are capable of a result at Gander Green Lane.

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Goalkeeper

It’s a change between the sticks this weekend as Finland international Anssi Jaakkola gets his chance after patiently waiting for a chance to arise.

James Belshaw picked up an injury against Walsall last week and whilst the injury isn’t too serious, he is unlikely to play tomorrow.

Jaakola himself hasn’t played since August owing to an achilles injury but Barton believes he’s ready to start.

Defence

Josh Grant has played almost in every position this season except for goalkeeper and striker and you’d probably fancy him there too.

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Given the red card of youngster Luca Hoole last week, it may be best suited for Grant to return to the right side of defence.

He started as a defensive midfielder last week but after Hoole’s dismissal he was back in defence.

A man-of-the-match performance from Connor Taylor last week makes him a certain starter for tomorrow’s game. Young Cardiff City defender James Connolly should partner him after the two have built up a strong partnership.

No left-back was signed on deadline day so that means that Nick Anderton should continue playing there after filling in there last week.

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Deadline Day signing Elliot Anderson may make his debut on Saturday. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)Deadline Day signing Elliot Anderson may make his debut on Saturday. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Deadline Day signing Elliot Anderson may make his debut on Saturday. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Midfield

It was touch-and-go last week for Sam Finley to play but nothing has been said about him playing this week, so rather than risk him, expect Paul Coutts to start in a defensive midfield two.

Glenn Whelan came on as a substitute last week and this could be the game to reintroduce him to the side.

There was arguably a man-of-the-match award for Luke Thomas last week but instead that was given to Taylor. Thomas was off the pitch when the goal went in but he was the one Rovers player that caused the Walsall defence problems.

The Barnsley loanee is finding his confidence again and whilst he’s feeling good about himself, this is the best time to utilise him.

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It’s safe to say that Saturday wasn’t the best game for Antony Evans last week as he was unable to put down a marker on the game, but perhaps an early injury sidetracked him. At the end of the full-time whistle he was smacking the badge on his chest as the Rovers fans showed their adoration to him.

Evans deserves to start given his influence in the side with the statistics putting him as Rovers’ best player.

As well as playing in the central attacking roles, there is a possibility that Elliot Anderson could play as a wide player and this is where he could make his debut, replacing Sam Nicholson in the side. Nicholson hasn’t been as influential on games as he could have been so time out of the side could give him the motivation to get back in.

Attack

Another late goal last weekend means it’s difficult to drop Aaron Collins given his confidence in front of goal at the moment. Leon Clarke was being managed carefully by Barton last week whilst Ryan Loft was also absent.

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Collins deserves to start but if things aren’t going Rovers way then there should be enough options on the bench to change things.

Bristol Rovers XI: Anssi Jaakkola, Josh Grant, Connor Taylor, James Connolly, Nick Anderton, Glenn Whelan, Paul Coutts, Luke Thomas, Antony Evans, Elliot Anderson, Aaron Collins.

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