There is a big-game feel about this week’s upcoming fixture with West Brom at Bramall Lane as Sheffield United have the chance to go level on points with the team currently occupying sixth spot.
Remarkably, a win for the Blades could move them within just eight points of the top two. Further, as things stand, the Blades have two games in hand on current second-placed side, Blackburn Rovers. Of course, there are other teams in the mix who will fancy their chances as well.
But regardless, the clash with the Baggies feels a big. The comeback win against Birmingham at the weekend felt similar, and Paul Heckingbottom will hope his side are right at it again when he welcomes Steve Bruce.
However, the pressure is on Heckingbottom to get his selection right. And with major players now nearing full fitness and competition for places hotting up, ‘Hecky’ faces a few big calls. The biggest of which is whether he recalls Wolves loanee Morgan Gibbs-White to the starting XI.
Gibbs-White is back in training but was left out at St Andrews as a precaution. But with such a huge game now ahead, is it time to bring him back in, and if so, who for?
Against Birmingham, United went with the three of Norwood, Berge and Fleck in midfield. In the first 45, it did seem to be a trio lacking any real intent and guile. However, all three did grow into the game.
Berge was instrumental in the equaliser as he drove from midfield, while Fleck played the killer pass for Jayden Bogle to seal the win. Further, Fleck also found himself in two good goal scoring positions but was unable to score. On the whole, it was a three that worked well enough.
However, a home game against a promotion rival is an opportunity to lay down a marker. Bringing Gibbs-White back into the equation, then would make sense. After all, this is a player who was in scintillating form prior to being injured, scoring five and setting a further four up so far this season.
Beyond that stats sheet, Gibbs-White also offers a certain dynamism and athleticism in midfield which we can, at times, lack when Fleck, Berge and Norwood are all in together.
The big question when bringing ‘MGW’ back into the XI, is who misses out? Obviously, Billy Sharp will continue to get the nod up top. Likewise in the middle, Ollie Norwood is a near certainty to start. That leaves the roles of Iliman Ndiaye, Sander Berge, and John Fleck up for grabs.
In our honest opinion, we think it could be Berge who misses out. While he did well at Birmingham, we’ve seen under both Wilder and now Heckingbottom that having balance – a left and right footer – in the midfield, seems to be important. In addition, Iliman Ndiaye was simply sensational at St Andrews and cannot be dropped for this one.
Fleck could make way for Gibbs-White, of course. But that would mean shifting Berge to the left hand side, albeit, it is the position on the pitch where he picked up the ball to set up Billy Sharp at Birmingham.
In a nutshell, Morgan Gibbs-White has to start for Sheffield United. He is too good to leave out, and his spark can be the difference between winning and not. This Blades squad is a big one, and one that will be utilised to the max in the coming weeks.
Whoever misses out tomorrow night will simply have to accept that Gibbs-White deserves his spot. After all, it is all about picking up a huge three points.