Sheffield United will be aiming to get their automatic promotion hopes back on track when they host Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane on Good Friday.
Last week’s disappointing draw against Millwall saw Chris Wilder’s side fall further adrift of Leeds United who currently hold a three-point advantage in the race for the top-two. Whereas the Blades are enjoying a successful campaign this year, the same cannot be said for their opponents.
Despite the arrival of Martin O’Neill in January, Forest’s hopes of reaching the play-offs in May were all-but finished by last week’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers and therefore it would not be surprising if they are already looking ahead towards next season.
With the upcoming clash between the two sides destined to be settled by who can dominate in the midfield areas, it will be intriguing to see whether Oliver Norwood or Joao Carvalho will come out on top. Although both players are extremely talented, the battle below will reveal who has had a better debut season in the Championship.
After joining the Blades on an initial short-term loan deal from Brighton last summer, Oliver Norwood had an extremely tough task on his hands to displace Paul Coutts in Chris Wilder’s starting eleven. However, an incredible start to life in South Yorkshire saw the midfielder provide three assists for his team-mates in the opening six fixtures whilst he grabbed his first ever goal for his new club against Aston Villa in September.
A continuation of his stunning form in the second tier culminated in United securing a permanent deal in the January transfer window which has reported to be in the region of £2m (via Sky Sports). Since making the switch, Norwood has gone from strength-to-strength for the Blades with his outstanding consistency being recognised by the Football League who named him in the Championship Team of the Season last month.
If Wilder’s side are to secure a return to the Premier League in May, the 28-year-old will undoubtedly have to stay fit for their last four fixtures of the season in order for them to have the best chance of usurping Leeds.
TT GRADE: A
When Forest announced the signing of Joao Carvalho last June for a club-record fee of £13.2m from Benfica (via the BBC), they had demonstrated a signal of intent to the rest of their competitors in the second tier. The latest in a long line of the Encarnados’ academy graduates which includes the likes of Bernardo Silva, Andre Gomes and Ederson, the Portuguese midfielder was tasked with leading his new side into contention for promotion.
However, despite showing glimpses of promise in his debut campaign in English football, Carvalho has yet to justify the amount of money that the Reds spent on him so far. Struggling for form in recent the weeks, the 22-year-old has only started one of his side’s previous eight games in the league which has seen the club drift out of play-off contention.
With his future at the City Ground unclear going into next season, Carvalho must make a decision that will end up being beneficial for his development as a player in the coming years.
TT GRADE: C+
Although both Norwood and Carvalho have recorded an equal amount of goal contributions this year (10 each), it is overwhelmingly clear that the Blades star has had a better season in comparison with his counterpart.
Having cost £11.2m less to sign, the midfielder has illustrated a skill-set which should allow him to thrive in the Premier League if United do achieve promotion at the end of the season.
Therefore, due to the positive impact that he has had on the fortunes of Wilder’s side, Norwood is our winner of this particular battle.
United and Forest fans, who do you think wins this battle? Join the discussion by commenting below.
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