QPR v Sheffield United: This is the Blades team to take win and a huge step towards the play-offs
If Paul Heckingbottom is to be taken at his word, and George Baldock really hasn’t played any part in Sheffield United’s preparations for tonight’s visit to Queens Park Rangers, then it would be a huge risk to select him against Mark Warburton’s side.
As United prepare for their penultimate match of the regular season - and hope to take a huge step towards securing the top six finish which would earn them a shot at promotion back to the Premier League - The Star’s James Shield selects his ideal matchday squad for this crucial fixture in west London.
Shield’s Starting Eleven: Foderingham, Osborn, Stevens, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Norwood, Fleck, Berge, Gibbs-White, Sharp.
Shield’s Substitutes: A Davies, B Davies, Norrington-Davies, Hourihane, Uremovic, Ndiaye, Osula.
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Shield’s Thinking: Sixth in the table and two points ahead of seventh-placed Middlesbrough with two games remaining, beating Rangers for the second time in the space of a month would see Heckingbottom’s side take a huge step towards qualifying for the play-offs.
The United manager has two big decisions to make. Does he start Billy Sharp, after the club’s leading goal scorer marked his return from injury with a substitute appearance against Cardiff City last weekend? And does Baldock, if he is available for selection, replace Ben Osborn at wing-back?
Personally, I would answer ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘no’ to the second. Sharp must start because he is United’s best striker. Even if he can’t complete the game.
Baldock is a better wing-back than Osborn, who is a midfielder by trade. But the former Nottingham Forest man is more than capable of operating in defence. And if Baldock really hasn’t trained after being treated for a hamstring issue, then picking him would be a huge risk. On balance, given Osborn’s versatility, I don’t think it’s one worth taking. Better, fingers crossed, to ensure Baldock is fit and firing on all cylinders for next weekend’s game against Fulham and then the play-offs.
Usually, I would opt for Ben Davies ahead of Jack Robinson. But Robinson has performed well in recent weeks and, on reflection, does not deserve to be dropped.