Football - Bug spread threat worries Bruce

Hull manager Steve Bruce is hoping a sickness bug that has laid several of his squad low this week passes before next weekend's visit of Chelsea.

A handful of players and a couple of Bruce's backroom team contracted the illness in recent days, disrupting preparations for Saturday's FA Cup third-round trip to Middlesbrough.

In truth that may have been a stroke of luck as Bruce was planning significant changes to his side anyway, and he was still able to walk away with a 2-0 success despite nine alterations to his starting XI.

But he knows he will need to be at full strength to challenge Jose Mourinho's title-chasing Blues on Saturday and is hoping the likes of Robbie Brady, Robert Koren and Alex Bruce have all recovered in time for the match.

Even more crucial is preventing the bug spreading and Bruce has acted quickly to hand his squad some additional time off - a move that should halt the infection and aid the recovery from a busy festive period.

"We're going to give everybody a couple of days off away from the training ground," said Bruce, after goals from out-of-favour duo Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz saw them into the fourth round at the Riverside.

"We sincerely hope it won't be a problem for us going forward but we have five or six struggling with it at the minute - a couple of staff and three or four players, including Koren, Alex and Brady who are away home and didn't travel with the lads.

"We have to be a bit careful in a confined area like the training ground so we'll stay away.

"We've had a gruelling schedule and we just hope it's not so bad that it sweeps ahead of everyone. I had something similar about two weeks ago and there's no way you could play with that. Let's hope it's not that bad."

With those concerns disrupting Hull's build-up to the cup match, Bruce was delighted with the ease of victory over Boro - testament, he believes, to the growing depth of his squad.

"Considering the problems we've had with the illness it was difficult putting a team together," he confessed.

"But it turned out to be quite a comfortable afternoon for us which is always nice in a big cup tie.

"That just shows you how far we have come in short period of time. Getting into the Premier League does that and we've only been in this year. Everything becomes bigger and better and you improve the squad as you go along.

"We want that to continue and be here for a number of years."