Sheffield United: 'Coventry City could be your toughest test yet,' promotion chasers told

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Sheffield United are bracing themselves for one of their toughest matches of the season when Coventry City visit Bramall Lane today.

Mark Robins’ side beat Paul Heckingbottom’s team at the CBS Arena earlier this term, despite entering that match propping up the rest of the Championship table. Speaking after that contest, which came following a flurry of postponements because of a badly damaged pitch at City’s home stadium, the United manager insisted Robins’ men were in a “false” position because of their disrupted schedule.

Now ranked eighth, only a point outside of the play-off positions, Heckingbottom last night insisted has theory has proved correct, saying: “Coventry are one of the best, The fact they had games called off made them have a slow start. I watched them at West Brom in the week and it was a really competitive and energetic game. They bring those things with them.”

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Heckingbottom watched City dispatch West Brom in Warwickshire, as part of a fact finding mission ahead of this afternoon’s fixture. Although he conceded predicting how they will line-up will be difficult, noting how many opponents are in the habit of adjusting their tactics against second-placed United, Heckingbottom warned City are unlikely to change all of their traits. Having won five of their last seven outings, Robins’ charges have conceded only four goals during that run - three of which came during the same contest.

“We have to break down a defence that keeps a lot of clean sheets,” Heckingbottom continued. “They have that energy and enthusiasm we talked about. They have a clear way of playing, regarding their characteristics.

“How many teams set up in a normal way at Bramall Lane, when they come to us? A lot tend to change and we have to be aware of that. But the best way is making sure we focus on us, and be ready to make changes, even in the game, that enable us to stick to the things we want to do.”

United will move level on points with leaders Burnley if they triumph over City, having taken 18 from their last seven assignments. Defender Jack Robinson is available for selection again following injury but John Fleck looks set to miss out against his former employers as he continues to recover from a fractured leg. Rhian Brewster and Rhys Norrington-Davies, whose hopes of representing Wales at this winter’s World Cup were dashed by the hamstring complaint he suffered at City in October, are other notable absentees together with Ismaila Coulibaly.

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“Robbo is back fit,” said Heckingbottom, who has seen a number of influential performers return to action following the tournament in Qatar. “Rhi and Rhys, they had surgery so they are going to be out longer term. Izzy (Coulibaly) we have back training with us. But with his knee, we are expecting to see that go up and down for the foreseeable and there’s Flecky who is getting over that crack in his leg - the swelling.”

Coventry City manager Mark Robins brings his team to Bramall Lane today: John Walton/PA Wire.Coventry City manager Mark Robins brings his team to Bramall Lane today: John Walton/PA Wire.
Coventry City manager Mark Robins brings his team to Bramall Lane today: John Walton/PA Wire.

“I don’t ask when they are going to be fit,” Heckingbottom added. “They are fit when they are fit. Some have set-backs, some come back earlier than expected so that’s why I don’t tend to ask (about comeback dates). I just prepare to plan with those who are available."