Sheffield United are set for a potentially season-defining test on Saturday when they travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds United. Victory would see the Blades usurp the Whites into second place in the Championship.
Defeat, though, would mean that Marcelo Bielsa’s side would gain a five point advantage with just eight league games left to go.
With promotion to the Premier League up for grabs, the pressure is on the Bramall Lane club, and manager Chris Wilder will know that they will have to be at their very best to beat Leeds.
Who would make a combined Sheffield XI? Ingood Nick makes his picks in the video below…
While fans will of course want to go for the throat and take three points from their rivals, Wilder’s side must also take measures to contain the Whites, who have the capacity to be utterly ruthless in the final third if given the chance.
Leeds possess plenty of talented forwards. The Blades, though, should focus most of their attentions on Pablo Hernandez. If they can restrict the 33-year-old attacker’s influence then the Whites may well struggle for cohesion and cutting edge in attack.
Hernandez has been in fine form recently. The veteran Spaniard is supremely technically gifted and a very smart player, which makes tracking and marking him especially difficult. Suffocating him for 90 minutes would require an enormous team effort from the Blades but that is what Wilder must demand.
Sheffield United boast one of the meanest defences in the division. The Blades’ back three proved last time out against Brentford that they can be extraordinarily resilient. The likes of Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham will have to produce similar performance levels to keep the Whites out, even if they keep all 11 men on the pitch this time.
To suppress Hernandez, though, the Blades’ midfield contingent must help out more. John Fleck and Oliver Norwood must diligently track back to ensure that the four-cap former Spain international isn’t able to pull the strings by exploiting the spaces between Sheffield United’s midfield and defensive lines.
Wilder could go a step further by introducing Martin Cranie to the middle of the park. Though the 32-year-old is a defender by trade, Wilder has utilised him in midfield on occasions recently. Cranie brings an extra level of defensive awareness and physicality to this part of pitch – which could prove an effective means of stifling Leeds’ brilliant No. 19.