After a very poor start to their campaign, Sheffield United will be hoping to claim their first league victory of the season over Peterborough United.
An early favourite for promotion after their appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic, the Blades have failed to recover from last season’s disappointment in the Premier League and will be hoping the upcoming set of games before the next international break will set them on a more promising course.
There are still 41 league games left to go in the 2021/22 campaign though, so you can’t rule out a Sheffield United resurgence as they look to compete with the likes of Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and AFC Bournemouth for an instant return to the top flight.
26 questions about Sheffield United’s managers from over the years – Can you score full marks?
The trio are all looking very good at the moment though, so it may take a remarkable run for Jokanovic’s side to displace all three and take the Championship title next May.
They will be hoping to turn around their fortunes against a recently-promoted Peterborough United side who are currently hovering just above the relegation zone. On paper, this should be a home win for the Blades – but you can never rule out Darren Ferguson’s side.
How will Sheffield United line up on Saturday afternoon though? We have selected our predicted starting XI ahead of this clash.
In his pre-match press conference, Slavisa Jokanovic was doubtful over whether Robin Olsen would be able to make his debut this weekend, so the reliable Wes Foderingham comes in over the Swedish international and Michael Verrips. The reliability of Foderingham means Olsen’s potential absence is no disaster at this stage.
However, the South Yorkshire side failed to recruit any orthodox wingers during the transfer window and this means the 3-5-2/5-3-2 system may come in handy once again. There are other formations Jokanovic could go with where he doesn’t have to operate with wingers, but this one is probably the one that the players are most familiar with from over the years.
With Max Lowe being shipped out on loan to Championship rivals Nottingham Forest and Enda Stevens not yet fit enough to be in contention for this game, Rhys Norrington-Davies starts at left wing-back.
On the other side, George Baldock was forced off with a foot injury against Luton Town, but may return for this game having had the international break to recover. Jayden Bogle is an exciting individual going forward though – and in a bid to change his side’s fortunes and switch things up – Jokanovic may decide to go with the 21-year-old.
In the centre, it has to be Liverpool loanee Ben Davies, John Egan and Chris Basham with Kean Bryan opting to join West Brom and Jack O’Connell remaining out for the long-term with his severe knee injury. All three should be able to cope with Peterborough’s attacking threat though.
Things get a little more interesting in the middle. Sander Berge is ‘touch and go’ after testing positive for Covid-19 just before the transfer window closed – but if he’s fit and available – you have to say he’s the first name on the teamsheet.
Republic of Ireland international and new signing Conor Hourihane joins him in the middle despite only just returning from international duty, as an experienced and reliable man in the middle of the park.
It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see another new man in Morgan Gibbs-White start as a more advanced option, potentially benching usual starters John Fleck and Oliver Norwood for the time being. He wouldn’t have come from Wolverhampton Wanderers so sit on the bench, so you would expect him to be heavily involved.
In his first interview after arriving on loan, he cited Rhian Brewster as a key figure in his temporary move to Bramall Lane and whilst this will help Gibbs-White, it will also help the forward who has struggled during his time in South Yorkshire so far.
In a bid to take advantage of this relationship, the Blades’ boss may decide to start Brewster alongside reliable goalscorer Billy Sharp, who has stepped up to the plate in recent games when many others haven’t.
Certain omissions will leave them with a strong bench, although they will be hoping the starting 11 can get the job done on Saturday afternoon before they enter the fray.
Predicted substitutes: Verrips, Baldock, Robinson, Fleck, Norwood, Freeman, McBurnie