Bristol Rovers predicted XI vs Tranmere Rovers - Key decision on whether to include trio

Joey Barton has a welcome selection dilemma on his hands as more players become available for the trip to Tranmere Rovers

<p>Josh Grant is pushing for a return to the Bristol Rovers XI.  (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)</p>

Josh Grant is pushing for a return to the Bristol Rovers XI. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Bristol Rovers have another important League Two fixture as they travel to promotion rivals Tranmere Rovers.

The Gas are two places and two points ahead in the league standings and a positive result would go a small way into at least securing a play-off spot.

Tranmere are a side that are compact and hard to break down, but are winless in their last three matches and that is something which Rovers will be hoping to exploit.

They are also without Kieron Morris and Calum MacDonald, who were both sent off in their recent draw with Carlisle United.

Here is how we think that Joey Barton will line up the troops away at Prenton Park come kick-off.

Goalkeeper

James Belshaw, who recently signed a new contract, remains unchallenged in between the sticks, bringing confidence to what is a youthful back line.

Defence

For the past few months, Luca Hoole’s place in the team has been nailed down, with no one coming near to challenging him.

Before him came utility man Josh Grant, who filled in well at that role, but remained sidelined with a knee injury.

Now he is back in contention and there is a range of roles that he could be considered for, both at full-back and his natural position in midfield.

Given that midfield is their best area on the pitch, Grant’s best option would perhaps be to play on the left-hand side as Hoole has more than held his own.

He’ll be in competition with Trevor Clarke or Harry Anderson, who is another option at left-back, as well as Nick Anderton, who may return, though Barton is only hopeful. At this stage of the season, you don’t want to risk your players, so giving them an extra week my work out.

In this case, Trevor Clarke should start again after putting in a good shift for 60 minutes, as that can allow Anderson to be more attacking.

Grant should be eased back so a place on the substitutes bench is best suited, where he can be considered in varying positions.

After coming through a slight scare after his match-winning goal against Bradford City, Connor Taylor is fine and he should partner on-loan Cardiff City defender James Connolly in a youthful but reliable back two.

Midfield

Protecting the defence whilst acting as support for the attack should be the ever reliable partnership of Paul Coutts and Sam Finley. Finley scored a stunning equaliser last week and has shown more of his attacking side in recent weeks.

Coutts’ influence remains key on the pitch, guiding the young players through these moments, so his leadership will be needed.

Barton was ‘hopeful that Antony Evans was going to return after the performance of Elliot Anderson, who was moved into the centre, he is more than capable of stepping up to the plate and is there if he doesn’t want to risk his talisman.

As touched on before, Harry Anderson can play at left-back but last week there was a lot more creativity about Rovers against Bradford than there was against Carlisle. Harry should continue to play on the wing as he has shown against Northampton Town, that he is a player that can deliver in these close-fought games.

On the other flank would be Sam Nicholson, who has returned from injury but needs to have a bit more of an impact on games. The 27-year-old was an important player during Rovers’ first-half of the season and a game like this could be where he rekindles his form.

Forward

For the past few matches, there’s been a bit of frustration for Aaron Collins, who hasn’t had the shooting opportunities he would have liked.

The Welshman though is a mobile forward and he can come back and bring others into play which sees him preferred over the likes of Leon Clarke and Ryan Loft, who would both be pushing for a start.

There is always an option to push Collins out wide, but that is more when the game is either tied up or things need to be changed to get a positive result.

Bristol Rovers (4-2-3-1): James Belshaw, Luca Hoole, James Connolly, Connor Taylor, Trevor Clarke; Paul Coutts, Sam Finley; Sam Nicholson, Elliot Anderson, Harry Anderson; Aaron Collins.