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The big Sheffield United dilemmas facing Paul Heckingbottom ahead of Forest tonight

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Sheffield United head to the City Ground looking to overturn a one-goal deficit in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

The Blades were second best in the first leg at Bramall Lane, with goals from Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson allowing the visitors to go 2-0 up, but Sander Berge’s stoppage-time header ensured that Paul Heckingbottom’s side are very much in the tie.

With a place at Wembley and their hopes of a return to the Premier League this term on the line, tonight’s game is as big as they come for United and with that in mind, we’ve highlighted the big dilemmas facing Heckingbottom ahead of kick-off…

How to stop the game from becoming a basketball match 

The Blades created chances of their own at Bramall Lane but the lethal speed with which Forest move the ball forward allowed them to take advantage of the space their attacking created.

United will need to be on the front foot as they look to overturn the one-goal deficit but Heckingbottom’s side have to take more control of the game and stop it from becoming a basketball match.

An end-to-end contest similar to the first leg will play into the hosts’ hands but stopping the game from becoming that will be easier said than done.

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Whether to make tweaks to his starting XI 

Heckingbottom’s side came off second best in the first leg and he’ll no doubt be weighing up whether to change up his starting XI ahead of the game at the City Ground.

Individual mistakes were costly and United struggled for control so he may be considering one or two tweaks.

His hands are tied a little due to injuries but it remains to be seen whether the Blades boss will trust the XI that started the first leg or shuffle the pack.

Whether to risk Billy Sharp

United had 15 attempts in the first leg but didn’t test Brice Samba enough with forward duo Morgan Gibbs-White and Iliman Ndiaye struggling to have their usual impact.

There’s no doubting the talent of the pair, who have a combined 18 goals and 12 assists this term, but neither of the Blades’ starting front two at Bramall Lane are out-and-out strikers.

Injuries have forced Heckingbottom’s hand in that regard but he’s revealed that Billy Sharp could return for tonight’s game.

One of the Championship’s great goalscorers, Sharp’s presence would be massive as the Blades chase the goals to turn the tie on its head.

But it’s a risk throwing the 36-year-old in, even if just from the bench, if he’s not 100% fit.

He will be desperate to be involved but Heckingbottom and his staff will have to make the call on whether he’s ready.


London-based sports journalist at Snack Media EFL accredited, graduate of New Associates and the University of Brighton

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: The big Sheffield United dilemmas facing Paul Heckingbottom ahead of Forest tonight

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