Team News | Rico Back In The Frame

Captain Santos

Captain Ricardo Almeida Santos is back in the frame for a potential Bloomfield Road return as a further boost to Wanderers’ promotion challenge, writes Pete Oliver.

The Whites’ skipper and defensive strongman has been sidelined since sustaining a calf injury in Wanderers’ penalty shoot-out defeat at Blackpool in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy last month.

Almeida has missed the last five games – as Ian Evatt’s men have extended their unbeaten League One run to seven matches – but is in contention to face the Seasiders.

“Rico is back,” confirmed Evatt. “He's trained great this week and he was great today. Obviously, it gives everybody a lift because he is such a good player and he's our captain and leader.

“Again, the others have done really well (in his absence) so we don't want to risk anything. Rico, when he plays, has to be ready to be Rico and we have to make sure we guard against any chance of re injury. We'll make that decision in the next 48 hours but it's great to have him back.”

Ricardo Almeida Santos action

Santos’ return to fitness comes as Wanderers lose another of their defensive options in the shape of Caleb Taylor.

The on-loan West Bromwich Albion central defender suffered an ankle injury in the Whites’ mid-week win at Cambridge and is set for an extended spell out of action.

“It's quite a nasty one. He's been really unlucky and I feel so sorry for him,” added Evatt. “It's a significant ankle ligament injury with some bone bruising which is going to be weeks on the sidelines.

“It's tough this game sometimes and I feel sorry for him because he was just starting to get the sharpness he needed to show everyone here what he could can do. I know he's going to be a top player, I have no doubts about that.”

Saturday’s trip to Blackpool will also come too soon for Dion Charles, but the Whites’ top scorer is ‘improving by the day’ as he looks to overcome a knee injury.

Wing-back Randell Williams is due back in training next week when goalkeeper Nathan Baxter will have the cast removed from his wrist injury and be further assessed.

But another key man will also be available to face Blackpool – when Wanderers could return to the automatic promotion places – in the shape of midfielder George Thomason.

Thomason goal Blackpool

The former Tangerines’ youngster scored the winner when the sides last met in League One in November and has completed a three-match ban for his dismissal at Northampton Town.

“It's great to have him back because he is a big player for us,” said Evatt. “He'll use what he's been through as time to learn and grow. He's been a huge player for us this season and it's great to have him back available as well.

“Being a lad that was at that football club, like I was, and being a lad that has a point to prove I have no doubt that he will show everybody how good he is again.”

Evatt returns to Blackpool – where he made over 250 appearances and shared a promotion to the Premier League – and admits it’s a game he’d love to play in as his side looks to become the first from Wanderers to win there since 1977.

The Whites’ boss added: “When we set out to do this and try and take this club forward it was about breaking those records and creating legacies.

“This is one I want to try and win for personal reasons, of course, but fundamentally for the team and this football club. That's what matters most to me, that we try and win as many games as we can to give us the best chance of achieving our ambitions.

“Nothing against Blackpool - that club knows the regard I hold them in - but we'll be ready for Saturday, a local derby and a great atmosphere. I don't miss playing very often but these types of games and occasions I certainly do.”

Watch the manager’s full pre-match interview on Wanderers TV

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