Sheffield United: James Shield's team to beat Fulham and reach the Championship-play-offs
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Sixteenth in the Championship when he replaced Slavisa Jokanovic in November, Heckingbottom’s team know that a win over Fulham later today will guarantee them a place in the end of term play-offs. Even a draw or defeat could be enough, depending on results elsewhere in the division. But let’s not go there.
United enter this match fifth in the table and on the back of a courageous victory over Queens Park Rangers. Their opponents, Fulham, are already assured of the title and thrashed sixth-placed Luton Town earlier this week.
The Star’s James Shield selects his ideal starting eleven and bench for what promises to be a nerve-shredding contest against the best squad in the division.
The Eleven: Foderingham, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Baldock, Stevens, Norwood, Fleck, Berge, Gibbs-White, Ndiaye.
The Thinking: United beat Fulham - and achieved the almost impossible by preventing Aleksandar Mitrovic from scoring - when they visited Craven Cottage in December. So, personally, I’d go with a team which can provide a similar dynamic again.
Plagued by injuries since then, Rhian Brewster, Jayden Bogle, David McGoldrick, Oli McBurnie and Billy Sharp are unavailable. But if George Baldock is fit, I’d pick him ahead of the excellent Ben Osborn. Purely on the basis that he is a specialist wing-back. Osborn’s presence among the substitutes would provide Heckingbottom with greater flexibility, however, on what is a defensively loaded bench.
Tasking Filip Uremovic, the Croatia international, with marshalling Serbian Mitrovic would be an intriguing prospect. But Chris Basham’s assist at Loftus Road last week was timely because, selected on the basis of his attacking prowess, the centre-half had not been providing enough going forward until that point.
I did give some thought to recalling Daniel Jebbison to the squad in order to provide more options up top. But I resisted the temptation, because of the doubts over Baldock’s ability to finish the game and the idea that the experience of Osborn and Conor Hourihane could prove crucial here.