Sheffield United: James Shield's team to beat AFC Bournemouth

Automatic promotion, Paul Heckingbottom insisted earlier this week, is AFC Bournemouth’s to lose.

Saturday, 9th April 2022, 8:00 am

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But for Sheffield United, sixth in the table with six games remaining, the outcome of this season is still delicately poised.

Beating Scott Parker’s side today would be a real statement of intent. Particularly if their nearest challengers, Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers, both drop points. But lose and, depending upon results elsewhere, Heckingbottom's side could face an uphill struggle to qualify for the play-offs. Although it would take a brave man or woman to bet against the race going right down to the wire.

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Ahead of United’s contest against opponents ranked second - six points ahead of third placed Huddersfield Town with two matches in hand - The Star’s James Shield selects his ideal starting eleven for the game, the perfect substitutes and explains why.

Shield’s Eleven: Foderingham, Stevens, Baldock, B Davies, Egan, Uremovic, Norwood, Fleck, Berge, Gibbs-White, McBurnie.

Shield’s Substitutes: A Davies, Robinson, Norrington-Davies, Osborn, Hourihane, Ndiaye, Jebbison.

Shield’s Thinking: United beat Queens Park Rangers 1-0 in midweek. Had their decision-making been better in the final third, they would have won by more.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has some selections to ponder: Cameron Smith/Getty Images

That suggests their overall performance was of the required calibre. So I see no point in changing the starting eleven here, although Oli McBurnie could tire during the second-half following his wholehearted shift on Tuesday. Daniel Jebbison and Iliman Ndiaye can provide energy from the bench if this does happen and, crucially, possess different attacking attributes too. This gives Heckingbottom the flexibility to react, depending on how the fixture is unfolding.

The United manager insisted Filip Uremovic, who was substituted during the second half of his debut, will be available for selection here. If so, he must start again.

At left wing-back, I’d plump for Enda Stevens over Rhys Norrington-Davies. But only because it would be good to see United try and impose themselves on Bournemouth and Stevens is better at going forward. If they can get themselves in front, and the result is still in doubt during the closing stages, then Norrington-Davies defensive qualities - particularly when he’s fresh - could prove invaluable.

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield
Bournemouth manager Scott Parker: Jacob King/PA Wire.