Sheffield United trio are walking a tightrope ahead of Aston Villa clash
John Lundstram, George Baldock and John Fleck will edge a step closer towards avoiding an automatic one match ban if they escape being cautioned during this weekend’s game against Aston Villa.
The Sheffield United trio have accumulated four yellow cards each since Chris Wilder’s side were promoted from the Championship. Premier League rules state any player who collects four before matchday 19 must serve a suspension, meaning Fleck, Lundstram and Baldock, who scored United’s second goal during Sunday’s win over Norwich City, must also negotiate safe passage through the meetings with Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford or trigger the punishment.
Although the fixture schedule puts all three at risk of missing December 29th’s trip to Manchester City, it also raises the possibility of Wilder being able to select from a fully strength squad when his team visits leaders Liverpool four days later.
Although only Arsenal have received more bookings this term - Wilder has disputed suggestions United are an overly-physical side, preferring to describe them as “competitive” instead.
“It’s a contact sport,” he said. “We expect our players to compete for the ball and to engage the opposition. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part of the game and what supporters want to see.”
“Some (yellow) cards are avoidable but others, with the way it’s going, I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to pick some up,” Wilder added.
United have a number of other players at risk of being banned over the festive period. Chris Basham, whose red card at Carrow Road was downgraded to a yellow by VAR, has been cautioned three times, together with Oliver Norwood and fellow defender Jack O’Connell.
Five of their team mates, including John Egan and record signing Oliver McBurnie, would be forced to sit out a match if they are booked in all of United’s next three outings.
Egan is almost certain to start against Villa. But McBurnie could be forced to accept a place on the bench if Wilder decides to persist with David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset in attack.