Sheffield United face a major dilemma ahead of their meeting with former Premier League champions Chelsea
Sheffield United have been presented with another defensive problem to solve ahead of Sunday’s game against Chelsea, with the on-loan Ethan Ampadu prohibited from facing his parent club.
With wing-backs George Baldock and Enda Stevens both in danger of missing the Premier League fixture because of injury, Chris Wilder must decide who replaces Ampadu at centre-half without upsetting the balance of a team which has won five of its last seven outings in all competitions.
Ampadu, who joined United from the Londoners in September, has emerged as the player most capable of deputising for Jack O’Connell while the Liverpudlian recovers from major knee surgery.
With Jack Robinson also confined to the treatment room and Stevens, who has played in a central role before, struggling to shake-off a muscle issue, Ampadu’s absence represents a major headache for United’s coaching staff as they look to build upon Tuesday night’s win over West Bromwich Albion. The situation also raises further questions about the wisdom of the club’s decision not to bolster Wilder’s options during the recent transfer window. Ben Davies, previously of Preston North End, had been identified by Wilder as a viable target before Christmas but the 25-year-old, who The Star understands spoke with representatives acting on the United manager’s behalf over the festive period, later completed a cut-price move to Liverpool when directors decided not to make reinforcements.
Despite making a chequered start to his career in South Yorkshire, Ampadu’s recent form means he will be a huge miss against opponents who appointed Thomas Tuchel as Frank Lampard’s successor last month.
“We don’t sign bad players,” Wilder said, when asked to assess the Wales international’s contribution so far. “Ethan is a young player and, like all young players, they find it difficult when results aren’t great but then you see the confidence come back.”
United began their preparations for the game at the foot of the table, but are now only a point behind Sam Allardyce’s 19th placed side. Speaking after goals from Jayden Bogle and Billy Sharp cancelled out Matt Phillips; opener for the visitors, Wilder insisted his squad are still “alive” in the battle for survival.