Sheffield United travel to the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest on Friday night. Both teams were on the losing side on the opening weekend of the season, and the two clubs will see this as a real opportunity to get points on the board.
The Blades had injury scares with George Baldock and Max Lowe at the end of the Crystal Palace game. However, Paul Heckingbottom has confirmed that Baldock, Lowe and even Oli McBurnie are in contention to face Nottingham Forest. Rhian Brewster is continuing to progress, but he is still not fit enough to make the bench.
Steve Cooper has said that Taiwo Awoniyi and Moussa Niakhate are closer to making the Reds’ starting XI:
“Both have played some minutes in different forms. Taiwo came on at Arsenal which was a slight risk but he made the team better. Moussa played 45 minutes for the under-21s the other night so sooner or later they will be available to start.” [Nottingham Forest]
The status of Brennan Johnson is unknown having come off with an injury against Arsenal, and he faces speculation with a rumoured move to Stamford Bridge this summer.
With a full week of training under his belt, Vinícius Souza could be handed his full debut on Friday night. Gustavo Hamer will be handed his debut. The duo would give Sheffield United’s midfield a mega boost after Ben Osborn, Chris Basham and Oli Norwood struggled to control the game against Palace.
Nottingham Forest’s danger man against Arsenal was Anthony Elanga. Despite coming on for the final ten minutes, he created the most chances (two) than any other player for Cooper’s side. United’s defence will need to be wary of his pace in behind and his direct running on the ball.
This marks Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United’s first Premier League encounter since May 1993.
Forest have been defeated in only one of their last 13 home league matches against the Blades (W7, D5, all within the second tier), experiencing a 1-0 loss in December 2008. That defeat came in the 2nd leg of the 21/22 play-off semi-final. Incidentally, Paul Heckingbottom has won both of his away matches at the City Ground.
United’s biggest threat could be posed by Will Osula who accumulated an expected goals number of 0.24 in the opening fixture [SofaScore]. He was left to feed off scraps due to the gulf in class between the Blades’ midfield and Palace’s midfield. But with the additions of Hamer and Souza, he should get plenty of service on Friday evening.
Meanwhile, Taiwo Awoniyi, Forest’s top scorer last season (10 goals) [Transfermarkt], is hunting a record that Stan Collymore holds – being the only Reds player to score in six Premier League games in a row.
Being on home turf, Nottingham Forest will certainly fancy their chances of claiming their first three points of the season, especially considering their excellent home form in the previous campaign. But the Blades can only get better than last Saturday I feel, when you consider the weak midfield that played.