Sheffield United will be desperate to get back to winning ways tomorrow evening, as they face Championship rivals Reading away from home in what could be a crucial fixture for the remainder of their 2021/22 campaign.
Although they only sprung into the life in the latter stages of their weekend tie against Coventry City, the fact they kept a clean sheet is a big step for a side that failed to keep one in their previous eight Championship games prior to the weekend clash at Bramall Lane.
Switching to a back three, the Blades seemed to benefit from this defensively and this will only give more confidence to the likes of Ben Davies, John Egan and Chris Basham, who will fancy keeping a clean sheet against a side that are currently hovering dangerously above the relegation zone due to their points deduction.
Quiz: What club do these 22 rarely-seen ex-Sheffield United players play at now?
They will be hoping to combine this defensive solidity with attacking urgency at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, with no shortage of options up front and a hugely influential player in Morgan Gibbs-White available at their disposal to create.
Will manager Slavisa Jokanovic resist reverting to a back four after a slightly more encouraging display against the Sky Blues at the weekend? Will there be any changes in personnel after failing to break the deadlock on Saturday?
We believe the Serbian will stick with a back three – but a few changes may be on the cards as he tries to find his best starting lineup going into a busy winter period.
Wes Foderingham started in place of Swedish international Robin Olsen at the weekend – and though he wasn’t tested too much – he did deal with tricky shots well. Even if Olsen is available, the ex-Rangers goalkeeper deserves another start.
Ben Davies, John Egan and Chris Basham also deserve to keep their places after their clean sheet last time out. The latter might be linked with a move to Middlesbrough, but the last few games have shown they need to retain the 33-year-old.
Jayden Bogle also remains in the starting lineup ahead of George Baldock – and should be a threat going forward. He’s joined by Ben Osborn on the other side, coming in for Enda Stevens who could probably do with a rest on the odd occasion.
The left wing-back role might not be his preferred position, but the 27-year-old can be a real asset going forward and after seeing his side fail to make the breakthrough against Coventry, he should be tried out in a position he has played in several times before.
In midfield, John Fleck and Conor Hourihane retain their partnership despite Oliver Norwood’s return from suspension. This is a real chance for the latter to make an impact and stake his claim for a regular starting spot, an opportunity he cannot afford to waste.
Fleck’s driving runs forward is something else to keep an eye out for, because that could prove to be successful in breaking down Reading’s defence.
Morgan Gibbs-White starts in front of them as the main creator, a position he is likely to thrive in having recorded six goal contributions in 12 league matches this term.
After going a few games without registering a goal or assist though, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him react to that and put in a memorable display. This might be needed if United are to take all three points away from Berkshire.
And with the attacking options the recently-relegated side have at their disposal, it would almost be a waste not to play two up top.
Billy Sharp makes an appearance against his former side – and Rhian Brewster starts alongside him after breaking his league goal duck for the club against Blackburn before the international interval.
Having an experienced leader in Sharp with him will be a huge benefit to the 21-year-old, with the relationship he struck up with Gibbs-White whilst in the Three Lions’ youth setup also potentially coming in handy for Jokanovic.
It’s a risk to start Brewster – but it could pay dividends to give this opportunity to a man who will have no shortage of motivation to grab another goal. His early strike against Rovers should give him the confidence he needs to thrive tomorrow.