Ethan Ampadu is ineligible for Sheffield United this weekend as they face Chelsea.
Ampadu is on a season-long loan at the Blades from Stamford Bridge and can’t feature against his parent club.
Which is a problem, because the 20-year-old has helped address a major issue for United in recent times.
The South Yorkshire club received a huge blow just two games into this season when Jack O’Connell required knee surgery.
O’Connell hasn’t played since and is unlikely to return again in 2020/21.
This created a problem for manager Chris Wilder, who needed to find an alternative on the left side of his back three.
Since then, five different players have featured in the role, to varying degrees of success.
On the pitch the Blades struggled as Wilder switched between defenders. They lost 15 of their first 17 Premier League games, picking up just two points in the process.
Of all the options, Ampadu is the best fit. It’s no coincidence that a recent upturn in form – with five wins in their last seven in all competitions – has seen the Wales international playing in the position throughout.
Finally Wilder has hit on a back three that works. But against the Blues on Sunday, the Blades boss now needs to come up with another alternative.
Who will replace Ethan Ampadu against Chelsea?
Wilder’s options are depleted immediately by injury. Neither Jack Robinson or Enda Stevens were available for Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Even if they return at the weekend, it would be a big ask to put them straight into the starting XI.
That leaves either Kean Bryan or Phil Jagielka.
Bryan recently started at left wing-back against Manchester United, scoring the opener as Wilder’s side secured a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
The 24-year-old has been given opportunities this season because of injuries, playing in four top flight games so far and largely impressing.
Of course, Jagielka offers more experience – but is arguably better suited to the central role currently occupied by John Egan.
At 38-years-old, the England international no longer has the attributes to be an overlapping centre-back.
However, if Wilder wants to shore things up in defence against a reinvigorated Chelsea team under new manager Thomas Tuchel, perhaps Jagielka would be the more sensible option.
Yet simply for his suitability, coupled with his recent showing against Man United, we expect Bryan to get the nod.
Being without Ampadu is a big blow, though.