JOHN Mousinho is urging Oxford United’s fringe players to lay down a marker against Chelsea Under 21s tonight.

Boss Karl Robinson is expected to make a host of changes for the EFL Trophy opener at the Kassam Stadium (7pm), with the club captain in contention to make his first appearance of the season.

It is a chance for players to force their way into the starting line-up for the U’s first game of the Sky Bet League One campaign at Lincoln City on Saturday.

United’s players have been told that the XI at Sincil Bank is still undecided and Mousinho senses a hunger from those coming in.

He said: “I get the impression that they’re raring to go.

“I think having the two cup games before the first league game of the season means all the places on Saturday are still up for grabs.

“That’s certainly the mentality I’ll be instilling in them and I know the manager’s thinking that way as well.

“He’s made no bones about it that he hasn’t picked his side for Saturday yet, so it’s a great opportunity for everyone to kick on and stake a claim for those places.

“I’d be doing it if I was one of the young lads and I’ll certainly be doing it myself.

“My own motivation will be trying to get into the league team on Saturday.”

The Group L clash could see a competitive debut for right back Sean Clare, who sat out Saturday’s Carabao Cup victory over AFC Wimbledon due to a suspension he picked up at former club Hearts in Scotland.

Jack Stevens is also set to get a chance in goal, with Simon Eastwood rested.

The penalty shoot-out win over Wimbledon means United have another midweek game next Tuesday, when they host Watford in the Carabao Cup second round.

The matches will come thick and fast in the shortened 2020/21 campaign, but Mousinho believes the U’s manic schedule in February this year – when they played nine games – stands them in good stead.

And the 34-year-old says those players who were not with United last season will not be complaining.

He said: “Luckily we had a taste of it last season when we had a run in the (FA) Cup.

“We’ve got to get used to it, it’s just the way football is nowadays.

“We want to beat Chelsea, we want to beat Watford and if we do we’ll continue rolling in both cups and we’ll have plenty of games.

“If you give players the option of Saturday-Tuesday they’ll take that all day, because they just want to play.”