Sheffield United might be without John Egan when they face Rotherham United on Saturday.
The defender was sent home early from international duty with Republic of Ireland after suffering a calf injury.
Blow for Blades
Egan has been ever present for the Blades since his summer switch from Brentford. To date the 26-year-old has missed just one league match.
It is already apparent that in Chris Wilder’s 3-4-1-2 formation, the best back three comprises of Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and Egan.
The Irishman occupies the central role and is tasked with anchoring the defence. With Egan sitting both Basham and O’Connell can break forwards.
Without him the system is altered. The Championship outing that Egan missed was the 4-2 victory over Wigan Athletic. Billy Sharp’s hat-trick stole the headlines, but conceding two at home is never a good thing.
In the absence of Egan, Richard Stearman moved into the heart of central defence. Stearman lacks the mobility that Wilder’s fluid tactics require.
It is unlikely that the formation will be dropped, so someone is going to have to step up to replace Egan. Stearman still remains the most likely candidate.
United are in need of a win at Rotherham having only been victorious of one of their last five games. However, the Millers are performing above expectations and are themselves unbeaten in five.
The positive for the Blades is that their South Yorkshire rivals are the second lowest scorers in the division with 14 goals. Wilder would still expect a defence without Egan to keep them out.
Yet the problem is how him not being there affects the attack. Basham, in particular, is often the furthest man forward when United are in possession – but knowing that Egan is available as cover.
Will he still be so willing to support the front line with Stearman alongside him?