By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia has been handed a double boost with the news that Roberto Pereyra and Isaac Success are fit and available for the game against Cardiff on Friday night.
Neither player has featured since the game against Tottenham Hotspur because of hamstring injuries, but they have made swift progress and are in the shake-up to play some part against the Bluebirds.
“Roberto and Isaac are both ready to compete,” said Javi Gracia. “Roberto is a very important player, making the difference in a lot of games, scoring goals and assisting.
“Isaac hasn’t played the same minutes as other players, but the time he played, he played with quality and is helping the team. He’s a good option for us in attack with his power and pace. He is something different for us to help us manage different games.”
Sebastian Prödl, who has been out with a combination of hamstring and knee injuries, is also available to be selected for a league game for the first time this year.
“Prödl is another option for us at centre-back where the players are playing well,” Gracia said. “It’s always good to have a player of his quality.”
With Prödl, Pereyra and Success all on the comeback trail, Kiko Femenía is the only member of the 26-man squad who is injured. The Spanish right-back is still not quite ready following the hamstring injury he picked up against Burnley and is not being rushed, especially with Daryl Janmaat playing well and Marc Navarro waiting in the wings.
“Kiko is feeling very well in all the training sessions,” said Gracia. “For the next game, it’s impossible [for him to play] but I think for the game after, he will be ready.”
The near-clean bill of health in the treatment room is in stark contrast the situation when Javi Gracia first turned up to find the number of injured players in double figures. The positive outlook is down to the hard work of the likes of Head of Injury Prevention Alberto Leon, physio Pete Webb and the rest of the medical and strength and conditioning team.
“It’s good for me to have more options to choose,” said Gracia. “The most important thing is the recovery of the players, so it is a good signal for the team and shows the good work of the medical staff. The whole club is working hard to recover players as soon as possible and now next week, maybe, we will have all the squad ready and available for the most important part of the season.
“The medical staff is working well, but it doesn’t just depend on the medical staff – there are many things and good things happening. But everyone is working well as I have more options to choose.”
The medical department will now oversee the return to fitness of Tommie Hoban. The luckless defender, 25, suffered the second cruciate knee ligament injury of his career when playing for Aberdeen on Saturday and he will return to the club for surgery and his rehabilitation.
“It is sad as he is a very good person and the time we spent together [in pre-season] was nice,” said Gracia. “He has a good mentality, a good attitude, always wanted to learn and help the team. He played as a centre-back and in other games as a centre midfielder [during pre-season]. It is a big disappointment for him, but we will support him and help him to recover as soon as possible. He has our support in this difficult moment.”