Nottingham Forest XI for Sheffield United play-offs clash predicted as Reds sweat on duo's fitness
It’s almost time for all the talking to stop and for Nottingham Forest’s play-off fate to be determined on the pitch.
But before then, Reds boss Steve Cooper must decide on his team for Saturday’s semi-final first leg against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. And he will be hoping injury doubts Jack Colback (groin) and Ryan Yates (shoulder) get the green light to feature.
The duo were not included in the squad at Hull City for the final game of the regular season. But Cooper has said they will be given “every chance” to be involved against the Blades.
If they are fit, the pair will almost certainly go straight back into the Forest starting line-up. The XI which takes to the field at the weekend will be very different to the one which took on the Tigers.
Cooper was not prepared to take any risks with that one, and he decided to rest a few players after a hectic April fixture list. Only Brice Samba, Joe Worrall, James Garner and Philip Zinckernagel retained their spots from the defeat at Bournemouth.
Scott McKenna had been left on the bench at the MKM Stadium due to illness, but is fine to play this weekend. Fellow centre-back Steve Cook was absent after a head injury and for personal reasons, but is also in contention to face United.
Tobias Figueiredo has been excellent whenever called upon to step in for Cook, while Jonathan Panzo had an impressive debut in Hull. With their opponents having scored four against Fulham last time out, though, the back line of Worrall, Cook and McKenna will surely get the nod on Saturday.
If Colback doesn’t get the thumbs up, Cooper does have options to cover. Last weekend, Joe Lolley filled in at left wing-back - as well as an orthodox left-back when a change in formation was made. Richie Laryea is also capable of playing on either flank, although has generally been used on the right, sometimes with Djed Spence switching sides as a result.
Meanwhile, if Yates is missing, Cafu could keep his place alongside James Garner in the centre of the pitch. Forest are short of out-and-out striker options, with Cooper saying Lewis Grabban and Keinan Davis remain sidelined. But Sam Surridge and Brennan Johnson have been in terrific form and will aim to cause the hosts problems.
Predicted Forest XI: Samba; Worrall, Cook, McKenna; Spence, Yates, Garner, Colback; Zinckernagel; Johnson, Surridge.