Every Sheffield United fan knows what happened the last time the Blades met West Brom and Paul Heckingbottom will be keen to avoid a repeat this evening.
The Baggies smashed past a disgruntled looking Blades side at The Hawthorns, as then-manager Valerian Ismael simply instructed his team to bombard the 18-yard box with high balls. On the night, a weak Sheffield United defender and a woeful goalkeeping display from Michael Verrips ensured a miserable 4-0 hammering.
Of course, things have changed since. United are a different side under Heckingbottom, who has inspired the Blades to within touching distance of the top six since Slavisa Jokanovic left. For West Brom, Steve Bruce is now in charge after the club got rid of Ismael. Indeed, tonight is Bruce’s first game in charge.
And while Bruce will want to put his own stamp on proceedings, the Blades should still expect a lot of delivery into their box, as Albion look to utilise their height. Step forward, then, Charlie Goode and Oli McBurnie.
A win against the Baggies will be massive for Sheffield United tonight. It will put United level with Albion on 45 points, which is the current sixth place spot in the Championship. But to ensure the win, Heckingbottom might need to change tact from Friday’s win over Birmingham.
Yes, the Blues are very much a similar side in terms of bombing the ball into the area. But we saw at the Hawthorns how Albion utilise it very well. Bringing in both Oli McBurnie and new signing, Charlie Goode, could be the answer.
McBurnie came on to good effect at St Andrews. He is chomping at the bit for a chance up top but his defensive work shouldn’t be overlooked. Defending set-pieces will be crucial, and McBurnie brings height to the table.
The same can be said for new signing Goode. According to Transfermarkt, Goode is a very healthy 6ft 4″. Just like McBurnie, that height could have a huge bearing on how tonight’s game goes.
Of course, the issue comes in who misses out. Ben Davies played well at Birmingham while Chris Basham is doing brilliantly with Jayden Bogle on the right. John Egan, as we know, isn’t getting dropped. Up top, Billy Sharp will start but then how does Heckingbottom not play Iliman Ndiaye? The young forward has been outstanding. Further, Morgan Gibbs-White is also pushing to start the game after injury.
But this Sheffield United squad is big enough to rotate and not be affected too much. In all likelihood, we’d likely see Basham be the man to drop out if Goode does play. More for the fact that Davies offers that left-side balance.
For McBurnie, you’d have to assume he starts only if one of Gibbs-White or Ndiaye is on the bench. There is no way Heckingbottom selects all four of Sharp, MGW, Ndiaye, and Oli Mac.
However, this is a nice problem for Heckingbottom to have and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see the Blades gaffer adapt for what is a huge game at Bramall Lane.