JOHN Mousinho is optimistic Oxford United’s squad rotation earlier this season will avoid a repeat of last season’s Christmas collapse.

Karl Robinson’s side look to be heading into the crunch run of games without at least half a dozen players.

United also had fitness concerns this time last year, where a strong run unravelled amid fatigued.

But Mousinho does not believe this situation bares comparison, with Robinson having regularly freshened his squad up during the autumn.

“I feel great going into games,” the skipper said.

“We’ve managed to rotate players in the cups and the league.

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“We could do with 18-20 fit first team players, but we went into Christmas positive last year and for the three games we looked dead on our feet.

“We couldn’t make any changes and had young lads like Gavin Whyte and Marcus Browne running on fumes.

“A couple of examples of where we’re different this year, we have two centre forwards we can rotate and we have three centre halves – maybe four with Sam Long.

“We do have options, where I don’t think we had last year.”

The other major difference from 12 months ago, when they slumped to three straight defeats in Sky Bet League One. is the league position.

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One defeat in a dozen games last term heading into Boxing Day had only clawed the U’s up to 18th place after a wretched start.

This time around they are seventh, just two points from third position.

Mousinho said: “I think we’re brilliantly placed.

“If you had offered this after the first seven games I think everybody in Oxford would have taken it.

“We’ve got some great games coming up and we have to take heart from the way we’ve been playing while we’re so depleted.”

Mousinho has moved from centre back to play in the middle of the park at times during the last few weeks as United have had to improvise during games.

It is something others may have to do until the injury problems ease, but the captain views it as a challenge which has to be overcome if the squad are genuine promotion contenders.

He said: “That’s going to be a very important part of our progression if we’re going to do anything this season, because we’ve got God knows how many games coming up.

“We’re going to pick up injuries and we need people to play out of position and do well in them.”