The news that John Egan is injured creates a defensive problem for Sheffield United at Fulham.
The Blades travel to Craven Cottage at 8pm this evening in what will certainly be described as a “relegation six-pointer”.
Five points currently separate bottom-placed United and the Cottagers in 18th in the Premier League table.
If Chris Wilder’s side have genuine hopes of avoiding the drop, they will need to leave West London with all three points.
A task made even harder with Egan now side-lined for the next eight weeks with a dislocated toe.
The 28-year-old was stretchered off during Monday night’s 3-0 defeat at West Ham United.
Manager Chris Wilder now has some big decisions to make at the back.
“There’s a couple of selection issues,” Wilder said in his pre-match press conference. “I want a side that’s consistent.
“I don’t want to keep chopping and changing. People keep making mistakes and I’ve got to try and find a solution.
“If people get injured, I’ve got to try and find a solution.”
Egan is injured, so what to do?
Defence has been an problem throughout the season, before the news that the Blades’ best centre-back is now also out.
It started way back at the beginning of 2020/21 when Jack O’Connell required knee surgery and has been out ever since.
Both George Baldock and Enda Stevens have missed spells because of fitness issues as well.
Assuming Wilder sticks with his back three – and he’s done little to suggest otherwise in the past four years – the obvious choice will be to bring Phil Jagielka in for Egan in the middle of it.
This allows Ethan Ampadu to continue his progress on the left, where the Chelsea loanee is growing into the role vacated by O’Connell.
Chris Basham then stays on the right and can carry on making driving runs forward when the opportunity presents itself.
Wilder doesn’t appear to trust Basham – a converted midfielder – in a two-man central defence, so this seems the best route.
Ampadu could play in Egan’s position himself, allowing either Kean Bryan or Stevens to come in on the left. Bryan has admittedly done well when given a chance.
Stevens, however, has suffered a remarkable drop in form this term. Even playing the Republic of Ireland international at wing-back at the moment seems a little risky.
Therefore, a back three of Basham, Jagielka and Ampadu makes the most sense. With Jayden Bogle possibly playing at left wing-back and Baldock returning on the right.