The teams and the personal challenges facing Sheffield United's international stars
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James Shield, The Star’s United writer, analyses their schedules, their opponents and the challenges facing every member of Paul Heckingbottom’s squad preparing to represent their respective countries.
Enda Stevens - Republic of Ireland: Tomorrow, Serbia (a) - Saturday, Luxembourg (h) - Tuesday, Qatar (a)
Stephen Kenny’s side begin their Group A campaign with a trip to Belgrade, before returning to Dublin at the weekend. The friendly with Qatar has been switched to Hungary, due to travel restrictions imposed by their government due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After an inconsistent and injury hit season in South Yorkshire, Stevens must use the matches to not only cement his place in Kenny’s plans but also play himself back into form ahead of United’s trip to Leeds next month.
Ethan Ampadu and Rhys Norrington-Davies - Wales: Tomorrow, Belgium (a) - Saturday, Mexico (h) - Tuesday, Czech Republic (h)
Former United defender Robert Page, who has been placed in interim charge of Wales after Ryan Giggs was forced to temporarily step aside, faces a huge challenge to preserve his country’s four match unbeaten run against FIFA’s number one ranked team. Ampadu is likely to start in midfield but Norrington-Davies could find himself marking Romelu Lukaku if he steps onto the pitch. The youngster, on loan at Stoke City, would do his chances of securing a first team place at Bramall Lane next season the power of good if he impresses either in Leuven or during this weekend’s friendly against the North Americans.
John Fleck and Oli McBurnie - Scotland: Thursday, Austria (h) - Sunday Israel (a) - Wednesday, Faroe Islands (h)
With Steve Clarke’s men joining Wales and England at this summer’s European Championships, the Group F triple header represents not only a chance for Fleck and McBurnie to press their claims for that tournament but also help their Scotland reach their first World Cup finals since 1998. Both face strong competition for a place in Clarke’s starting eleven, with McBurnie under particular scrutiny as he awaits his first international goal. If selected, next week’s meeting with Hakan Ericson’s team appears a good opportunity for him to get off the mark.
Sander Berge - Norway: Tomorrow, Gibraltar (a) - Saturday Turkey (h) - Tuesday Montenegro (a)
Despite being selected, the United midfielder is not expected to take part in any of his country’s upcoming matches because of a hamstring injury. Covid-19 protocols have disrupted the Norwegian’s schedule, with this weekend’s meeting with Turkey set to take place in Spain rather than Oslo.
Aaron Ramsdale and Rhian Brewster - England U21: Thursday, Switzerland (h) - Sunday Portugal (a) - Wednesday Croatia (a)
The Young Lions face three back to back European Championship qualifiers, with Ramsdale and Brewster both expected to feature prominently in coach Aidy Bothroyd’s plans. Ramsdale has impressed for United of late but, from a personal perspective, Brewster will be hoping to play his way back into goal scoring form after failing to hit the target for United since his move from Liverpool in October.