Royle spoilt for choice

NEVER before with Ipswich has Joe Royle had so many options going into a top-of-the-league clash.Royle is bound to break a heart or two when he has to leave someone on the bench at Sheffield United tomorrow, as the arrival of David Unsworth opens up a plethora of opportunities for change.

By Derek Davis

NEVER before with Ipswich has Joe Royle had so many options going into a top-of-the-league clash.

Royle is bound to break a heart or two when he has to leave someone on the bench at Sheffield United tomorrow, as the arrival of David Unsworth opens up a plethora of opportunities for change.

Royle said: “David Unsworth will start. As for formations and where, you will have to wait and see.


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“David played in various positions on the left for me at Everton so it does give us a lot more options defensively.

“Matt Richards is better regarded as a midfielder and that is, hopefully, where he will get his chance.”

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The Blues could look to match the Blades' 3-5-2 formation and use Unsworth as a left-sided centre-back, with Danny Karbassiyoon and Fabian Wilnis as wing-backs.

If Royle sticks with the 4-4-2, with Unsworth making his debut at Bramall Lane, then Karbassiyoon and Richards could miss out.

With all midfielders fit, Royle must decide who will lose out. Tommy Miller could be dropped if Town put Darren Curry wide on the right and tries out either Karbassiyoon or Richards on the left flank.

Ian Westlake will be hoping to keep his place in the centre of midfield but a fully-recharged skipper Jim Magilton is almost certain to start and Kevin Horlock has done nothing to deserve being left out.

The front two are nailed on, as Shefki Kuqi runs a gauntlet of hate in the red half of the Steel City, after playing for Sheffield Wednesday, and he usually scores against the Blades.

Darren Bent, selected once more for England Under-21 in the friendly against Holland at Pride Park next Tuesday, will be looking for his 15th goal of the season.

Unless Royle pulls a major surprise and goes three up front, then Dean Bowditch will have to settle for a place on the bench again, while Pablo Counago will not make the trip to Yorkshire at all.

Victory for Town would virtually end Neil Warnock's side's chances of going up automatically.

While that adds pressure on their promotion chance, the Town boss is relaxed about being at the summit, where everyone is trying to knock them off.

He said: “We love being top and the challenge of staying there is what we want.

“It is so much better being top than second, because when you are second and you lose you may go out of the top two.

“The players are full of it at the moment and that break did us the world of good.”

The Blades are desperately trying to beat Wigan in signing Ade Akinibyi from Stoke before today's deadline, so he can play against Ipswich.

They have Irish international Alan Quinn back from suspension and have finally signed Chinese international striker Hao Haidong, although he will not be considered for Saturday's clash which is heading for record attendance for the season.

Although the ground capacity is 30,000, the biggest crowd so far was against Leeds United with 22,959 watching. Town have sold out their allocation of a top tier of seats and will start filling the lower section behind a goal.

Royle said: “It is always an intimidating atmosphere and beating them 5-1 here earlier in the season won't make our task any easier.

“Neil did declare after that game that he won't be playing football against Ipswich Town. We are expecting an aggressive game. Certainly, they were aggressive against West Ham last week.”

Meanwhile, the added squad numbers will also benefit reserve team boss Steve McCall.

Jimmy Juan will feature for the Town Reserves against Arsenal on Monday after recovering from a foot injury. Drissa Diallo is training again but the game is a bit too early after recovering from hamstring trouble.

Young defender Gerard Nash is hoping to get the all clear to start playing in games again when he sees a specialist next week, after being dogged by a series of injuries over the past year.

Ipswich squad: Davis, Price, Wilnis, Unsworth, Karbassiyoon, Richards, De Vos, Naylor, Magilton, Horlock, Miller, Currie, Westlake, Bent, Kuqi and Bowditch.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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