With tonight’s crucial clash with Sheffield United now just a few hours away, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 at Bramall Lane might look like come 6pm.
Keeping form, fitness, our busy schedule and tonight’s opponents in mind, here’s the team I think Steve Bruce might just go with:
(5-2-2-1): Darlow – Yedlin, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Ritchie – Hayden, Shelvey – Murphy, Almiron – Wilson.
OUT – Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Dummett, Hendrick, S Longstaff, Joelinton and Carroll?
IN – Darlow, Yedlin, Fernandez, Schar, Ritchie, Shelvey, Murphy and Wilson?
After resting a whole host of key players over the weekend, Bruce seems likely to ring the changes here and hand starts to several rested star men.
I can see the defence being exactly as it was against Man City, Liverpool and Leicester, with the one positive from those three games being we actually looked pretty solid at the back against strong opposition.
I’d personally prefer to see us go back to a four-man defence in this one and set up with a slightly more attacking formation, but with Lewis appearing to miss training on Monday and Dummett playing 120 minutes on Saturday after so long out, we’re short on left-back options (Ritchie is OK at wing-back but not suited to being on the left of a back four).
In midfield, I feel like Matty Longstaff deserves another chance and has added some much needed energy to our midfield in recent weeks, however I think Bruce will hand Shelvey a recall, with Hayden helping make up for his lack of mobility.
It’d be a risk that could backfire – especially when Matty’s given us another dimension – but I reckon Bruce will feel Shelvey’s creativity could be key against a struggling Blades side.
It’s also worth noting he scored in this fixture last season and ran the show when we beat them 3-0 in that emphatic win in June during Project Restart.
Out wide, I think Joelinton may be taken out of the firing line after another sloppy display over the weekend and believe it could be Murphy that gets a chance to shine in his place. He created a few chances during his cameo appearance against Arsenal and could well be given the nod along with Almiron – providing Fraser is only deemed fit enough for the bench, that is.
In between those two, it has to be Callum Wilson. He’s been given a rest and is the main man who can do damage to a brittle Sheffield United back line. Carroll was brilliant against Arsenal (aside from a few big misses), however he surely won’t start so soon after running himself into the ground for over 90 minutes?
Let us know how you see us lining up when the team sheets are released at 5pm!