Nottingham Forest welcome Manchester United to the City Ground on Sunday at 4:30pm for matchday 31 of the Premier League. Let’s take a look at Steve Cooper’s likely line-up for this home game where it will be very important to take points in the race for survival.
For the last game against Aston Villa (2-0 defeat), Steve Cooper reverted to his 3-5-2 formation. Even though the game ended in defeat, the team looked more comfortable defensively, which opened up possibilities for counter-attacks, a tactic that Steve Cooper is particularly fond of. It is likely that this system will be used against the Red Devils.
Dean Henderson was expected to make his return to training this week, according to Steve Cooper. However, the club has not communicated this and Cooper also said that no injuries had returned for this weekend’s game so it seems likely that Deano is not yet fully recovered from his injury. In any case, Forest are playing Manchester United, Dean Henderson’s parent club, so the goalkeeper would not have been able to play the game anyway. Keylor Navas will therefore start in goal.
Harry Toffolo has been playing a lot of games since Renan Lodi’s injury. Even if his performance against Aston Villa wasn’t very good, he still performs well and remains Steve Cooper’s number one solution in this position in the absence of Renan Lodi. His presence on the left of the defence is therefore almost guaranteed.
Against Aston Villa, Moussa Niakhaté, who only returned from injury a few weeks ago, was injured again. The club did not say how long the injury would last but it seems to be quite serious as he is still not back and should be out of the squad on Sunday. His numerical replacement is expected to be Scott McKenna. The Scot returned from injury a week ago and was on the bench against the Villans. Although it may be a little early to start him again as a starter and he seems to have lost his starting place, the shortage at centre-back should force Cooper to start McKenna on Sunday.
Felipe continues to be an example of confidence and security for the Nottingham Forest defence. He has been spared injury since arriving in January and is expected to start at centre-back for Nottingham Forest again on Sunday.
Against Aston Villa, Joe Worrall put in a fairly good performance. He was reassuring in his restarts and in his positioning, helping the team to concede as few chances as possible. He should logically complete the central hinge alongside Felipe and McKenna.
Like Harry Toffolo, Neco Williams has been a consistent performer on the right side of defence. In the absence of Serge Aurier, who is still injured, he is Steve Cooper’s first choice.
The Brazilian midfielder has been playing a lot of games lately. His presence in midfield is becoming more and more indispensable for Forest, whether it is in the recovery of the ball or in the construction of chances. Steve Cooper would be well advised to start him against Manchester United.
He has been performing well for several games now and is vital to the defensive side of the team with his determination and good positioning. A pairing with Danilo is being built and Steve Cooper, who is looking for continuity in his XI, should start him again on Sunday.
Although his recent performances have been slightly disappointing, like the team, Morgan Gibbs-White is obviously a must in Cooper’s eyes. There is no doubt that he will be a starter and he should be at the top of the midfield three, with the role of creating goal-scoring opportunities.
After three starts in the last three games, it would be time for Steve Cooper to start Taiwo Awoniyi. Every time he has come on since his return from injury, he has been dangerous with his imposing size in the box and his pressing ability. Starting him would give him more time to create goal-scoring opportunities and give the team more chances to convert their chances.
Like Morgan Gibbs-White, Brennan Johnson’s tenure is not an issue. He is Steve Cooper’s key man and Forest’s top scorer. Although he hasn’t scored and has looked a little invisible in the last two games, he remains unpredictable and the return to the City Ground in front of the incredible Forest fans could well unlock him to score again.
Predicted XI: Navas – Worrall, Felipe, McKenna – Toffolo, Danilo, Gibbs-White, Mangala, Williams – Awoniyi, Johnson.