Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forest preview: How to watch, kick-off time, team news, predicted lineups and ones to watch
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Ryan Yates of Nottingham Forest equalises in injury time during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane on March 04, 2022 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Nottingham Forest must put the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion behind them as they travel to South Yorkshire to face Sheffield United in the first leg of this play-off semi-final. 

The Reds pushed Bournemouth for second place, and it's been a great season considering Forest were bottom of the Championship after eight games, so Steve Cooper's side must concentrate on this opportunity and forget about the past two games (L1, D1). 

Before losing to Bournemouth, Forest had only lost one of their previous 15 Championship games, and they'll need to carry that form into the play-offs if they want to end their 23-year top-flight exile.

Sheffield United are in good form, having thrashed Champions Fulham 4-0 last time out to go unbeaten in their last four games of the regular season. 

After failing to progress through the play-offs in their previous eight attempts, the Blades will be looking to make amends this season by returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking after being relegated last season.

Team news 

Billy Sharp, Jack O'Connell, Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick, Jayden Bogle, and Rhian Brewster are among the players on Paul Heckingbottom's injury list.

If Billy Sharp recovers from a calf tear, he is the lone player on that list who could be in contention. At the end of April, Heckingbottom said: "You can understand why I am not going to tell you when I am speaking to you before. It's not good news and it's going to be weeks rather than days."

Nevertheless, Heckingbottom recently told the local media that Sharp is "another few days closer".

With his team limited on attacking alternatives, the Sheffield United manager may be forced to risk the veteran striker for the first leg.

Forest manager Steve Cooper has known his best starting lineup for months and will hope to revert to the lineup that faced Bournemouth recently.

Only Brice Samba, Joe Worrall, James Garner, and Philip Zinckernagel are expected to keep their starting spots against Hull City.

Scott McKenna was unwell prior to the Hull game and had to sit out, but he should be fit enough to start against Sheffield United.

Ryan Yates, Jack Colback, and Steve Cook were all kept out of the squad against Hull as a precaution but are expected to play again this weekend. 

Lewis Grabban is still out for the season, while Steve Cooper recently claimed that Keinan Davis and Max Lowe aren't close to returning from their injuries.

When it comes to injuries, though, Steve Cooper has a lengthy history of stating the worst-case scenario. 

When Keinan Davis was first injured, there was speculation that he would be able to return in time for the playoffs, but that remains to be seen.

Predicted lineups 

Sheffield United: Foderingham; Basham, Egan, Robinson; Osborn, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; Berge; Ndiaye, Gibbs-White

Nottingham Forest: Samba; Worrall, Cook, McKenna; Spence, Yates, Garner, Colback; Zinckernagel; Johnson, Surridge

Ones to watch

Iliman Ndiaye

The 22-year-old has scored in each of Sheffield United's last three games, giving him a total of nine goal involvements this season (G7, A2). 

Six of the midfielder's goals this season have come as the game's first or second goal, putting Sheffield United in a commanding position early on.

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Sam Surridge

The Forest striker has six goal involvements in his last six games (G5, A1). 

Since arriving in Nottingham, the 23-year-old has scored eight goals, registered one assist, and earned his team two penalties. 

Surridge has only played approximately 715 minutes, which means he is currently directly contributing to a goal every 79 minutes.

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Previous meetings 

The last time these two teams met was in March, where the sides drew 1-1 at Bramall Lane thanks to a 95th-minute Ryan Yates equaliser. 

In the first half, a Brennan Johnson penalty gave the Reds the chance to take the lead, but Wes Foderingham stood strong to make the save. 

The Blades took the lead through Billy Sharp in the second half, and it looked like the hosts would take all three points, but Ryan Yates' piling header secured Forest a well-earned point.

How to watch

This match is on Saturday, May 14, and kicks off at 15:00 BST. Coverage of the game will be available from 14:55 BST on Sky Sports Main Event and 14:45 BST on Sky Sports Football.

What the managers have said

Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom spoke to the club's media ahead of this fixture, explaining how important the first leg of the play-offs is and not to underestimate Forest.

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He said: “You can't win it in the first leg but you can lose it - it's half-time at the end of this you play the game and try and manage every part of it and likewise off the back of that guard against everything. 

“It does add a different dynamic but the main message is not to panic and just get the most out of it.

“Forest were bottom when Steve (Cooper) took over. To get there shows what a tough team we are facing. 

“We know it is going to be difficult but I say it all the time if you are going to be successful you will be playing good teams.

“All your experiences help you the more experiences good and bad you get a bit clearer in what's important and what's not the game is big enough to take care of itself in terms of how big they are. 

“We have got the right messages across - be prepared to go and play at the same time know how big it is.”

Ahead of this play-off semi-final first leg, Steve Cooper spoke to the local media about how important the competition is and how his team need to embrace the opportunity.

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He said: "We have to thrive on it, try not to be fearful of it.

"Be the opposite, look forward to it and get ready for it. It is a big ground, passionate and noisy.

"If you want to succeed in life these are sorts of things you have to embrace and go for. Embrace the challenge and look forward to the excitement of it.

"It's not just what the players and staff have worked for this season, they have worked for this all of their careers.

"It not just what you work for, it's what you live for. It's natural to start thinking about or anticipating what could happen. 

"Players are motivated - we know what it means, they know what it means."

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