Sheffield United sweating on the availability of several key players ahead of crunch Premier League clash

After indicating he was contemplating changes for Sunday’s game against Fulham, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is waiting to discover if his room for manoeuvre has been limited by a series of injuries sustained by members of Bramall Lane’s first team squad whilst on international duty.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 12:21 pm

Midfielder John Fleck, who was poised for a recall to United’s starting eleven, was forced to sit out Scotland’s win over the Czech Republic due to an unspecified complaint while compatriot Oliver Burke withdrew from training ahead of last week’s European Championships qualifier following concerns about his fitness.

With David McGoldrick and John Egan both missing the Republic of Ireland’s Nations League tie with Finland, the latter after being deemed a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, the adjustments Wilder makes for this weekend’s Premier League fixture could be enforced rather than tactical, as he attempts to end United’s run of four straight defeats.

Both Fleck and McGoldrick are set to be assessed by medical staff at the Steelphalt Academy tomorrow, before a decision is made on their involvement in a match set to have a crucial bearing on the mood behind the scenes - Scott Parker’s side making the journey north also without a point so far this term.

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“I don’t think we’re too far off, “ Wilder insisted earlier this month. “But there’s things we can do better and there’s a few lads who could, and this isn’t a criticism of their attitude, be doing a little bit more in terms of performance. So that’s something we might have to look at, doing things a little bit differently, to bring it out.”

After being named on the bench for United’s games against Leeds and Arsenal, Wilder was contemplating handing Fleck a more prominent role ahead of the clash with Fulham. Before the Yorkshire derby against Leeds, journalists were briefed that the former Rangers midfielder had been rested because of a condition which meant he was unable to complete 90 minutes, although no details were given about its exact nature.

Doubts were cast on that explanation when Fleck was selected by Clarke for Scotland’s latest round of matches, and then started the win over Slovakia before being withdrawn during the closing stages. However his absence when the Czech’s visited Hampden Park suggests Fleck could have suffered a recurrence of the problem, casting doubt on his availability for both the clash with Parker’s men and the trip to Liverpool later this month.

Burke has been under the guidance of United’s medical staff since returning to South Yorkshire last week, while McGoldrick will also be examined when he reports for duty shortly. Although the centre-forward would not ordinarily be required to resume training until Saturday, Wilder and his coaches want to discover if he can take part in the contest with Fulham before finalising their selections. Officials at the FAI are thought to have briefed United on McGoldrick’s situation ahead of the game in Helsinki, and overseen the first stage of his recovery programme.

John Fleck in action for Sheffield United: Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images

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